JEFF PRESTRIDGE: Royal London is happy to discuss a deal for LV and it could be a better outcome for members – not just the greedy board
Early this year, I raised major concerns over the proposed takeover of mutual insurer Liverpool Victoria (or LV= as it now likes to call itself) by American private equity group Bain Capital.
Three issues troubled me. First, LV’s board, led by former Post Office boss Alan Cook, seemed far too keen to cosy up to greedy private equity – and far too quick to dismiss other more suitable buyers such as fellow mutual Royal London.
A merger of likes, I suggested, seemed a far more sensible way forward than getting into bed with a profit-centric private equity company with no experience of running a UK life and pensions business.
Is the writing on the wall?: The screw is being turned on the LV board
Secondly, the board’s determination to get the deal done meant Cook et al were quite happy to lower the hurdles over which the mutual must jump in order to get membership approval.
Thirdly, Cook and his chief executive Mark Hartigan appeared reluctant to reveal how they would personally benefit financially if the takeover proceeded.
Ten months on – and with a membership vote on the deal taking place next month – these issues have not been allayed.
Indeed, Cook and his board have gone into tunnel vision mode. With the finish line in sight and the prospect of undisclosed personal financial enrichment on the horizon, they are more determined than ever that the Bain Capital takeover must go ahead – despite the paucity of the offer made to the mutual’s 1.2million members (in most cases, a measly £100).
Shamefully, they are threatening to reduce this £100 windfall to £60 if members do not sanction a rule change that would allow the deal to proceed on a turnout vote of less than 50 per cent.
In recent weeks, our sister newspaper, the Daily Mail, has turned the screw on LV’s board.
Tory grandees, a host of MPs and most important of all a number of LV customers, have all spoken out against the deal. The board’s response has been to say little and hope that it can get the deal over the line.
Although the City regulator has ticked off LV’s board for the poor way it has communicated details of the deal to members, it appears powerless to stop the takeover, even though it is in no one’s best interests other than Bain Capital’s and LV’s board members.
What that says about the effectiveness of the Financial Conduct Authority I will leave you to judge, but the words ‘toothless’ and ‘useless’ spring to mind.
Cook’s record as a fit and proper person to oversee a company is questionable given he was the boss of the Post Office while it was busy, wrongly (and disgracefully) prosecuting postmasters and postmistresses for an IT shambles of the organisation’s own making. He also presided over a massive – and damaging – programme of post office closures.
Time is running out for Cook to stop his reputation descending into the gutter. He should pull the plug on the Bain Capital deal and go back to the drawing board.
As we report, Royal London is happy to discuss a deal. It could be a better outcome for LV’s members – not just LV’s greedy board.
Make your voice heard on LV
We are encouraging LV members, customers, or others, who would like to see it retain its mutual status, rather than be bought out by private equity, to write to it.
You could use the wording from the letter printed in the Daily Mail newspaper’s City pages (pictured here).
We have included the words for you to copy and paste into a letter below.
Send it to Alan Cook, Chairman of LV=, Liverpool Victoria, County Gates, Bournemouth, BH1 2NF
Dear Alan Cook,
I, the undersigned, urge you to reconsider your decision to sell LV= to Bain Capital and instead maintain its mutual status.
BT must address elderly concerns over digital switch
I trust BT’s executives take time out today to read Toby Walne’s worrying report on the company’s digitalisaton of its home phone network – and then act to address the concerns raised.
Although digitalisation is welcome technological progress, BT has not thought through how some elderly and vulnerable people could suffer from the move.
In the worst case scenario, a power cut – the new phones unhelpfully rely on electricity to work, unlike traditional handsets – or an internet outage (calls are made via the internet) could leave some unable to make a ‘999’ call if they suddenly needed emergency help.
BT needs to nip this potential problem in the bud by offering to provide all customers with a free battery powered back-up for both their router and phone.
It’s what they did (eventually) for disgruntled MoS reader Frank Coma. It’s what they should do as a matter of course.