The multi-millionaire founder of Esure is trying to sell his controlling stake in the firm, according to reports.
Sir Peter Wood has opened informal discussions with a number of potential suitors, a move that would precipitate a takeover attempt.
The chairman of the FTSE 250 firm owns 30.7 per cent of its stock. Under stock market rules, the sale of a stake greater than 29.9 per cent means the purchaser must make an offer to buy the company's remaining shares from investors.
Rival insurance chiefs said Wood has been in touch in recent months to gauge their interest, according to the Sunday Times.
Worth approaching £700m, 71-year-old Wood founded Direct Line in 1985 and Esure in 2000. He was the group chief executive between 2006 and 2012 and is also the chair of Gocompare, which was spun-off from Esure last year.
Other major shareholders in Esure include hedge fund Toscafund and asset manager Fidelity.
Esure shares are still languishing below the level at which it floated in 2013. In July, the firm's share price jumped above 300p for the first time since the Brexit vote but has subsequently fallen more than 10 per cent, ending at 262p on Friday.
Esure declined to comment on what it called "speculation".