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08 December 2023, 10:23

Alex Chesterman finally departs Cazoo

In a significant development within the automotive industry, Alex Chesterman, the outspoken founder of the renowned online used car dealership Cazoo, has officially stepped down from his role. This strategic move comes on the heels of the confirmation that the troubled used car dealer successfully restructured its debt. Notably, the restructuring deal entailed the conversion of the company's staggering $630 million debt into a more manageable $200 million, a pivotal financial maneuver that transpired just yesterday.

In tandem with Chesterman's departure, four other directors have also elected to retire, reshaping the leadership landscape of Cazoo. Taking the helm as the new Chairman is Tim Isaacs, an accomplished accountant with a substantial background in fund management. Joining Isaacs in this transitional phase are esteemed professionals Alan J Carr, Andrew Herd, and Nicholas Pike, while Mary Reilly remains the sole board member persevering with the firm.

Chesterman, the former CEO, initiated waves of disruption in the motor trade with his unapologetic critiques of traditional car dealers, characterizing them as 'sharp-elbowed salesmen.' His scathing commentary underscored what he perceived as fundamental flaws in the conventional methods of selling cars, asserting that the industry was flawed on multiple levels. This candid perspective stirred controversy within the sector, particularly as he lambasted dealers for providing mere '7 minute test drives' and deeming the process of purchasing a car from a dealership as 'inconvenient.'

The aftermath of Chesterman's tenure witnessed a precipitous decline in Cazoo's business value, plummeting from a nearly $7 billion valuation at its 2021 launch on the New York Stock Exchange to a stark $11.6 million valuation today – marking a staggering 99.9% reduction in less than 2.5 years. Paul Whitehead, the current CEO of Cazoo, expressed gratitude on behalf of the company to Chesterman and the retiring board members for their service and guidance since the company's inception.

Cazoo initially entered the market with grand promises of revolutionizing the car-buying experience by exclusively selling vehicles online. The company rapidly expanded through acquisitions, including Imperial Car Supermarkets, vehicle preparation sites, and car subscription companies, extending its reach into Europe. Despite substantial investments in marketing and sponsorship, the firm has yet to turn a profit, leading to staff layoffs, the withdrawal from European operations, and the closure of acquired businesses in the UK.

The recent debt restructuring, characterized by a $630 million exchange offer over convertible notes with shareholders, is seen as a pivotal move to alleviate the financial burden on Cazoo. A convertible note, functioning akin to an IOU, provides short-term debt financing, with the unique feature of allowing investors to be repaid with equity instead of conventional interest.

In response to this development, CEO Paul Whitehead articulated optimism, viewing the completion of these transactions as a significant turning point for Cazoo. With an improved capital structure and promising operational momentum, as evidenced by record retail GPU figures and enhanced unit economics, the company is poised to approach 2024 with confidence.

This strategic realignment transpires amid a backdrop of turbulence within the used car market, marked by plummeting values and widespread write-downs. The industry upheavals pose challenges, and it remains to be seen how Cazoo will navigate this storm, having fortified its position through this comprehensive debt restructuring.

Notes to the editor

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