Broker denies rumours of sell-out to Towergate

Smart & Cook Group has denied rumours that it is to sell to Towergate Partnership, but has not ruled out a future deal.

Group managing director Paul Meehan said he would not rule out a takeover "if the offer was right", but added that there had been no talks with Towergate so far.

He said: "We are regularly approached because we have a cracking business, but we are not in discussions."

But he added: "There is always a price for everything."

Speculation had centred on whether one of Smart & Cook's major backers, venture capitalist 3i, was to sell its stake in the group. But this week it told Insurance Times there were no plans to sell a broker with which it has "a very healthy relationship".

It invested in the broker a year ago.

Despite 3i's denial, rumours continued to surface this week about a possible takeover. One broker said: "This is one of those rumours that just won't go away. I wouldn't be surprised if Towergate were taking an interest in it."

Meehan said if 3i were looking to sell off the company, it would be contractually bound to discuss offers with Geoff Cook's family, which also owns shares in the broker.

' Endsleigh has also scotched rumours that it is about to sell out to Towergate.

The broker is partly owned by the National Union of Students and Zurich. Towergate would need to mend its relationship with Zurich before it could negotiate a takeover deal.

An Endsleigh spokesman said: "We are not up for sale."