MBO team puts PremiumFirst up against the big guns

Open & Direct has decided it is time to take on the premium finance big guns, following its management buyout (MBO).

Paul Elliott, the managing director of Open & Direct's insurance broking and premium finance business, and four senior managers bought the arm from Viridian Group for £111.4m.

London private equity firm Alchemy Partners backed the Belfast-based group.

The five comprise Elliot, Open & Direct Insurance (UK) managing director Gareth Brady, retail services head Sam Downey, financial director Geoffrey Farmer and communications head Liz Young.

Elliot said the new business, Open & Direct Holdings, would make a serious break into the UK market.

"It's a very large and growing market and we believe we have an offering and a good opportunity to break in," he said.

"It's time that some of the smaller players had a go."

The MBO team was one of several players bidding for the business, but Elliot said they gained the upper hand with their background knowledge of the business and its internal workings.

Open & Direct entered the insurance market in 2000 with the acquisition of four brokers, including West Midlands-based Footman James & Company.

It also owns Northern Ireland intermediaries Spratts, Cathcarts and O'Kanes, which changed their names to Open & Direct Insurance in April.

Its internet-delivery premium finance product PremiumFirst was launched in the UK and Ireland late last year.

Elliot said he could not rule out the purchase of more brokers in the future, but had no immediate acquisition plans.

Alchemy Partners partner Dominic Slade said the purchase gave Alchemy a chance to back a team which had grown quickly, with a strong set of businesses.

He said Alchemy had committed capital to fund further Open & Direct growth.