Two long-serving directors and six other employees of Rugby Estates are leaving as part of a contraction of the company to focus on asset management.

As a result of the change in direction Rugby will make a return of cash to shareholders of around 50p a share ‘within the next few months’.

Rugby’s biggest shareholder is the activist investor Laxey Partners, which has 4.73m shares, giving it a 28% stake.

Neal Taylor and Alex Wildman, the directors who head up Rugby Capital, the group’s direct trading and development arm, will be leaving the company on 31 December.

The pair had been at Rugby for 16 and 15 years respectively. Rugby, headed by chairman David Tye and chief executive Andrew Wilson, has also reduced the number of employees below main board level by six to 10.

Rugby, which holds £9m of cash and has no debt, will focus on growing its asset management business, which has relatively low capital requirements, under the Rugby Asset Management brand. Rugby Asset Management is property adviser to ING Covent Garden Limited Partnership, O Twelve Estates Limited and Rugby Estates Investment Trust.

The directly-owned property portfolio, which was valued at £57m as at 31 July, will continue to be managed and ‘in due course’ sold.

‘Having carefully reviewed our strategic options in light of extremely challenging market conditions we have decided to take advantage of our efficient management structure and financial strength to re-shape the business,’ said Tye. ‘An important part of this process is to return cash to shareholders in the near future.’