Veteran insurance tycoon plots Hastings Direct IPO

INSURANCE tycoon Neil Utley is stepping up his plans for a flotation of motor and home insurer Hastings Direct.

The chairman of the Bexhill-based firm could net a cool £150m should the listing go ahead.
Hastings Direct is said to be in the process of appointing advisers to handle the initial public offering (IPO).

No date has yet been confirmed, although an IPO could be brought to market as soon as early next year.

Along with chief executive Edward Fitzmaurice, Utley completed a management buyout of Hastings Direct from Insurance Australia Group (IAG) in February 2009.

They are thought to have paid around £24m for the firm before launching a major cost-cutting drive to get the business in shape.

The group, which has around 650,000 policyholders in the UK, is now said to be valued at £500m.

A serial entrepreneur, Utley landed a multimillion-pound windfall in 2007 after he sold Equity Insurance, formerly Cox Insurance, to IAG for £570m.

He bought Cox Insurance in June 2005 just one year after being ousted as its chief executive.

At first, Utley approached the board with plans for taking the listed firm private. Yet management disagreed with his plan and sacked him.

The tenacious Yorkshireman finally succeeded through a leveraged buyout in June 2005 for £425m, including £130m of debt.

Utley has over 20 years of experience in top-level senior insurance management, having run a direct insurer, general insurer and broker.

NEIL UTLEY