Sandler joins Pearl as chair

PEARL, the insurer founded by pubs-to-pizza entrepreneur Hugh Osmond, has confirmed Northern Rock head Ron Sandler is joining as chairman.<br /><br />The group has taken on Sandler ahead of its planned secondary listing on the London Stock Exchange in the fourth quarter.<br /><br />Sandler was put in charge of failed mortgage lender Northern Rock after it became the first casualty of the credit crunch and fell under state control. He is expected to remain in charge of the Rock, serving as Pearl&rsquo;s chair in a part-time capacity. <br /><br />The City heavyweight, formerly chief executive of the Lloyd&rsquo;s of London insurance market and chief operating officer at NatWest Group, has joined with immediate effect.<br /><br />And Pearl, which was bought by US hedge fund vehicle Liberty Acquisitions in a rescue deal, said Tom Cross Brown, currently a director, has been promoted to the board. <br /><br />Chief executive Jonathan Moss said: &ldquo;We have set out a clear strategic and operational plan to deliver value from our existing business and are well-positioned to participate in further consolidation in the UK closed life fund sector.&rdquo; <br /><br />The group also said the value of its life policies remained static at &pound;4.7bn.<br /><br />It said its capital surplus, the reserves protecting it against a spike in insurance claims, were &pound;1.09bn &ndash; 62 per cent higher than at the end of last year. <br /><br />Pearl added it plans to make the London listing its primary listing, as it moves away from the smaller NYSE Euronext market. The new listing comes ahead of the firm&rsquo;s planned acquisitions of major life insurance and asset management players in the coming months. <br /><br /><strong>RON SANDLER PEARL GROUP CHAIRMAN</strong><br />Pearl&rsquo;s appointment of Ron Sandler as chairman and the elevation of&nbsp; City veteran Tom Cross Brown to its main board is designed to give the group maximum credibility in the run-up to its London stock market flotation next year.<br /><br />Sandler is a formidable figure; a former chief executive of Lloyd&rsquo;s of London, he was chosen by the government to conduct a review into the UK&rsquo;s savings market. <br /><br />He is also currently chairman of government-owned Northern Rock bank.<br /><br />&ldquo;Ron will be what I described as a &lsquo;non-executive chairman-plus&rsquo;,&rdquo; chief executive Jonathan Moss said, adding that Sandler would be paid &pound;450,000 a year and would receive yet-to-be finalised shares.<br /><br />Tom Cross Brown, 61, brings with him vast City expertise, given a 21-year career at Lazard Brothers where he worked with such luminaries as David Verey, Marcus Agius and John Dear.<br /><br />Following his career at Lazard, Cross Brown was, until 2003, global chief executive officer of ABN AMRO Asset Management. <br /><br />He is also a director of Just Retirement and a director of the listed hedge fund group BlueBay Asset Management.