CLIVE Cowdery’s buyout vehicle, Resolution, is prepared to launch a hostile bid for Friends Provident, the life assurance firm led by Trevor Matthews, if it fails to agree a takeover.<br /><br />Cowdery and Matthews may end up battling it out if a friendly deal can’t be struck, with Resolution prepared to ignore the Friends board’s recommendations and make an offer directly to shareholders if it has to.<br /><br />A source close to Cowdery told City A.M.: “We are not ruling out anything. Resolution is in business to do deals and currently what it has got is a pile of cash. It is in the market to invest it.”<br /><br />He said none of the concerns noted in Friends’ rejection statement came as a surprise, adding that Resolution had tried to overcome the objections.<br /><br />And he said Resolution was trying to keep the deal on good terms as it values Friends’ bosses, including Matthews, and wishes to retain them. The group is now working on an improved offer with a possible cash sweetener.<br /><br />The Friends board yesterday issued a stinging rejection of the approach from Resolution last Friday, suggesting the vehicle’s structure would offer its shareholders secrecy and “a structure significantly different from recognised public company best practice”. And the board said it was concerned the offer does not offer any investment premium to Friends’ shareholders.<br /><br />Resolution made an all-share approach, offering 0.8 new shares for every Friends share, which would leave Friends’ shareholders with about 74 per cent of the combined group.<br /><br /><strong>JAMES LEIGH-PEMBERTON<br />CREDIT SUISSE ADVISER FOR RESOLUTION</strong><br />Resolution’s efforts to cut deals across the life-insurance sector are being led by the Credit Suisse team run by blue-blooded banking giant James Leigh-Pemberton.<br /><br />The Eton-educated 53-year old is receiver-general for the 672-year old Duchy of Cornwall estate, which provides an income for the Prince of Wales.<br /><br />Working directly under Leigh-Pemberton for Resolution is Zachary Brech, whose career has seen him work on deals for private equity giants Permira and Apollo and manufacturer Corus to name just three.<br /><br />Meanwhile, Friends Provident’s dealings with Resolution are being managed jointly by Connor Hillery’s team at JP Morgan Cazenove and Paul Miller’s Goldman Sachs team.<br /><br />Irish-born Hillery’s name is never far from the insurance-sector action. He led Brit Insurance’s unsuccessful bid for rival Chaucer last month.