The campaigning personal finance journalist who created MoneySavingExpert.com has landed a cash payday of more than £25 million after offloading shares in the website’s owner in an overnight sale.
Martin Lewis, who created the consumer advisory service in 2003, sold nine million shares in Moneysupermarket.com at 280p apiece, in a placing.
Mr Lewis, who sold the business to Moneysupermarket for £87 million in a cash-and-shares deal three years ago, was prevented under the terms of the agreement from dumping any of the shares until now.
Although Mr Lewis, 43, raised a total of £25.2 million from the placing, he still owns nearly 8.4 million shares worth a further £23.46 million based on Thursday night’s placing price.
At the time of the sale to Moneysupermarket, Mr Lewis gifted £10 million of the proceeds to the Charities Aid Foundation, which he uses to channel donations to projects involving financial education and to help to prevent people with mental health problems from plunging into debt crisis.
The charity also exited some of its holding, selling just over 4.27 million shares and raising £12 million for good causes. It still holds more than 470,000 shares that were worth just over £1.3 million at last night’s price.
Moneysupermarket’s shares shed 2¾p yesterday to close at 293¼p as the market digested the sale, which was executed at a small discount to the prevailing market price.
Mr Lewis described his sale yesterday as “portfolio management” and said that he would be investing the money in other assets.
“I didn’t want to have all my eggs in one basket. I didn’t want to sell all of my shares; I still believe in Moneysupermarket and I still believe in the website’s future as part of it,” he said.
He is scheduled to step down as editor-in-chief of MoneySavingExpert once a replacement is found — probably about March next year, he said yesterday — and in September will take on the role of the site’s executive chairman.
Mr Lewis, who has also made donations to the mental health charity Mind and gave £1 million to the Citizens Advice Bureau, was allowed to sell his shares several weeks in advance of the original deadline because of his decision to stay on, he said.
Moneysupermarket paid £35 million in cash for MoneySavingExpert, which, largely through the efforts of Mr Lewis, had garnered a reputation as a consumer champion that was prepared to take on banks and insurers over high fees and obscure small print.
The Manchester-born entrepreneur, who was the sole shareholder in the business, also received more than 22 million shares in Moneysupermarket as part-consideration for the sale. He could collect a further £27 million under non-financial targets that were set at the time and are due to be tested in September.
Mr Lewis tried his hand at stand-up comedy and did at stint as a PR man for Brunswick, the City firm, before coming up with the idea of a money tips website, setting up MoneySavingExpert in 2003 at a cost of £100.
Also an author and television presenter, Mr Lewis was previously the business editor of BBC Radio 4’s Today programme and was the “money saving expert” on Simply Money Television, a former digital channel.
The sale came a day after Moneysupermarket delivered an upbeat trading statement to the stock market, as part of which it reported a 30 per cent increase in revenues at MoneySavingExpert over the six months to the end of June.