The Guardian view on LV’s buyout: stop this terrible backroom deal | Editorial

The Guardian view on LV’s buyout: stop this terrible backroom deal | Editorial

In agreeing this private equity deal and keeping most of its details from their own members, LV= directors have shown a striking combination of high-handedness and cack-handedness

It was founded shortly after Victoria ascended the throne, and over the intervening 178 years a few changes have naturally been made. What was once the Liverpool Independent Legal Victoria Burial Society later became Liverpool Victoria, and now calls itself, rather tersely, LV=. Where agents used to go door to door collecting pennies to cover funeral costs, today the brand is slapped on everything from pensions to pet insurance. The HQ has shifted from Liverpool to Bournemouth. But one big and rare thing remains in place: LV is still owned by its customers, all 1.2 million of them. That makes it one of Britain’s last great mutuals. For now.

If all goes according to its board’s plans, the company will soon be sold to the giant American private equity firm Bain Capital. Members have until early next month to vote on the takeover, but the website presents it as a done deal. Directors claim the buyout offers “an excellent financial outcome for members”; most are promised £100 for surrendering their ownership of a major insurer – a paltry sum compared to the £6,000 members received when Scottish Widows was bought by Lloyds TSB more than 20 years ago. Directors also say the deal will give “unrivalled support for the LV brand”, although they have been tight-lipped about the 11 rival bids received, including from fellow mutual Royal London. Well-paid executives and their lavishly remunerated advisers have cooked up a boardroom deal that is bad for the rank and file who are now expected to rubber-stamp it. The lack of communication with policyholders and members is so bad that the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) has publicly chided LV. Directors have shown a striking combination of high-handedness and cack-handedness.

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