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Ex-Persimmon chief Jeff Fairburn returns to housing with Avant deal

The Telegraph logo The Telegraph 19/04/2021 Louise Moon
a man wearing a suit and tie: Fairburn © Provided by The Telegraph Fairburn

Jeff Fairburn, the former boss of Persimmon, has teamed up with an American hedge fund to buy one of the UK’s largest residential property developers.

Yorkshire-based private property developer Berkeley DeVeer, headed by Mr Fairburn since early 2020, has partnered with funds advised by New York’s Elliott Advisors to take over Avant Homes Group.

A buyout of Avant, which builds 2,000 homes a year across five UK regions, has been expected to attract bids of more than £500m, though details of the deal could not be disclosed.

Mr Fairburn, who will become chairman of the group, said: “Avant Homes is a fantastic business, with a strong proposition and a compelling track record of growth. It has a high-quality management team that has transformed the business, with an unrivalled focus on building design-led homes in the housing market’s fastest growing regions.

“We look forward to working with the team to further invest in the business and develop it into one of the UK’s leading housebuilders.”

It marks a high-profile comeback for the executive who was ousted from FTSE 100 builder Persimmon in 2018 after five years at the helm, following a furore over his £76m bonus. In early 2020 Mr Fairburn, 54, was appointed chief executive of Berkeley DeVeer, taking a 50pc stake.

Avant, which has a turnover of about £500m and employs around 780 people, will otherwise continue to be led by existing management with chief operating officer Mark Mitchell replacing Colin Lewis as chief executive on May 1 under existing plans.

The buyout comes after the firm was sold to a group of hedge funds for £175m in 2014 by Lloyds, which acquired the housebuilder through its takeover of HBOS during the financial crisis.

Incoming chief Mr Mitchell said: “We are delighted to have secured the backing of new owners who share our vision for the group. Their backing will provide us with additional means to push on with our growth plans.”

Elliott Advisors was contacted for comment.

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