The entrepreneur, who will become executive deputy chairman from February, plans to free up time for other start-up opportunities. He's done pretty well out of his first big venture. Nixon owns nearly 54% of the company, which offers comparisons on money, insurance, utilities, travel, broadband, shopping, mobiles and motor. He floated it last year for £840m.
Nixon is a regular fixture at the top end of MT's annual Top 100 Entrepreneurs list, in which he was runner-up last year. He launched moneysupermarket.com in 1999, having dropped out of university and begun developing tools for mortgage brokers to match products to customers' needs. Revenue was £104.5m in 2006, and Nixon managed to raise that by 59.9% to £162.9m in 2007.
His decision to step back is, he says, a product of these entrepreneurial instincts, which often kick in when founders build a business to a certain size. ‘You know in your gut when it's time to step aside and let the people you've brought in take over and move the business forward,' he said. ‘It's a completely different business to what it has been.'
He added that he didn't want to end up like other entrepreneurs who ‘try to hold on to their baby too long and end up suffocating it.'
There may of course be other factors at play. The group's share price has performed poorly since its flotation at 170p. At that time he raised £102m, but since then the price has plunged as trading conditions in the loans and mortgages part of the business have worsened. Nixon is perhaps canny enough to see that the skills which make someone a good builder of companies aren't necessarily the same as those needed to dig that business out of a hole.
And there's evidence to suggest that hole may be getting deeper: online retail in general is experiencing its toughest test yet. Retail websites are still faring more healthily than their rivals on the high street, but according to ComScore, the online data analyst, visits to retail sites in the UK were down 10% in November compared with the same period last year. Meanwhile IMRG, a web retailer's association that measures the value of online sales, says year-on-year percentage growth has been falling throughout the year, from 75.6% in January to 13.3% in October (although the high street would kill for numbers like these, of course).
Moneysupermarket says its profits for the year are in line with analysts' forecasts, which predict earnings before interest, tax and depreciation of around £48m to £50m, down from £53m in 2007. As for Nixon, he is the type to do well out of a downturn - he bakes his own bread and limits himself to one Ferrari. As to where he places in this year's Top 100 Entrepreneurs - check out the January issue of MT, out in the New Year.
In today's bulletin:
BAA forced to sell three of its biggest airports
City eyes further cuts as Fed starts giving money away
Nixon checks out at moneysupermarket.com
Pension warning after £100m Government cock-up
Parisian models bare all in protest