THE boss of LV= has told the Daily Echo that a US private equity firm is the only potential buyer committed to “keeping alive” its offices and jobs.

The life, pensions and investment business has around 800 staff in Dorset, as well as 9,000 local members eligible to take part in the vote on a proposed £530million sale to Bain Capital.

Chief executive Mark Hartigan said the sale – which has run into opposition from politicians and a campaign from the Daily Mail – would be a “great deal” for the with-profit policy holders who own the mutual organisation.

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LV= sold its general insurance arm – which represented three-quarters of the business – for £1.1billion to Allianz in a deal which was completed in 2019. General insurance staff share the County Gates offices with the mutual.

Mr Hartigan said he was brought in at the start of 2020 to improve the prospects for the “rump” of the business.

He said it had been his “absolute priority” to get the best deal for the customers who own the business.

“We went to the market, we said ‘Who wants to give us as much money as you can?’" he said.

“Bain Capital came in and said ‘We believe in the workforce, we believe in the brand, we recognise it’s been around for 175 years, we recognise that you’re short of investment capital to make this business fly but we’ve got big ambitions and we’ll support you and your people’. And they came in and they offered the most money.

“They not only offered the most money for our with-profit members but they also gave us guarantees that Bournemouth will stay alive, that Hitchen will stay alive, that Exeter will stay alive.

“They’re talking about doubling our customer base and they’re not going to do that on a wing and a prayer, they’re going to do it through hard cash.

“They’ve already pledged £160m. I believe in the future they’re going to have to produce a lot more because this is a long, long-term commitment and you don’t play at it half-heartedly. The only way they’re going to get returns is after many, many years of investment and turnaround.”

Since the LV= board agreed the sale, it has emerged that another mutual, Royal London, offered £10m more for the business. But Mr Hartigan said the net value for members would have been “tens of millions” of pounds lower.

“During the process of taking bids, the only entity that made a commitment to our three sites was Bain Capital. The only entity that made a commitment to our brand was Bain Capital. The only entity that wanted an independent future for LV= was Bain Capital.

“Because Royal London are a much larger business, they’ve got their own product suites, they’ve got their own customer centres, they’ve got a very large place up in Winslow. This is business – why would they need to invest in us as a separate business?” he said.