Chief executive will take on non-exec role as Chris Guillaume takes the reins.

Open GI chief executive Phillip Bell said the decision to step down as chief executive of Open GI was his alone and not a move he was pushed into following Towergate’s acquisition of his company.

Bell’s announcement comes less than six months after Towergate bought the Open International Group – including Open GI, the Countrywide Network, and London market technology provider MI – for £276m.

At the time of the acquisition, sources speculated that Bell was likely to leave the company, which was previously bought by Montagu Private Equity for £182m in May 2006.

But Bell denies that the decision to step aside was planned following the acquisition.

He said: “My decision to step away from a direct executive role was my decision. It was not driven by any other party. Having successfully run the business for nine years with two changes in ownership, I felt it was the right time in my career to pass the opportunity to another member of the Open International board. It was not something I had planned at the time of the acquisition.”

Bell said for the foreseeable future he would retain a consultative and non-executive role with the company.

Chris Guillaume, research and development director of Open GI, is set to take charge as managing director with effect from today. Guillaume joined the business in 1999 and was promoted to operations director in 2002.

In a statement Open GI said: “The change coincides with current chief executive Phillip Bell’s decision to step away from a direct executive role. Phillip will be retaining a keen interest in the business by taking on a non-executive directorship of Open International.”

Fast facts

September 2007 – Towergate acquires Open International for £276m – the largest deal in the company’s 10-year history.

Open GI has around 40% of the broker market with 27,000 users of the system across 2,000 commercial and personal lines.