Former NU chief executive admits adviser’s role but refuses to comment on chairmanship

Former Norwich Union chief executive Patrick Snowball has confirmed he has advised private equity firms BC Partners and Apollo Management over a possible bid for the Royal Bank of Scotland’s insurance division, RBSI.

However, he refused to comment on his role, should an offer be successful. The situation at present was “incredibly sensitive”, he said.

Snowball has been heavily linked with an approach for the bank’s insurance assets, which include Direct Line and Churchill, backed by private equity.

The bank put the assets up for sale last year with a price tag in the region of £6bn to £7bn; however, that sum is now believed to be significantly lower.

Reports have suggested that Snowball could become chairman and that Chris Sullivan, the current chief executive, is likely to stay on in his role.

Snowball quit Norwich Union in April 2007 after missing out on the chief executive’s job at parent company Aviva and stepped down from the Towergate board last year after plans to float the business were postponed.

He remained chairman of Towergate Financial Services, however, and is also a non-executive director of JLT, after joining the broker’s board in October. Snowball is thought to be keen to return to the helm of a listed UK insurance business.

Recent reports have suggested that Royal Bank of Scotland could drop the sale of its insurance division. It rejected a bid from private equity firm CVC and Stephen Hester, its new chief executive, is thought to be keen to hang on to the business. However, the bank insisted it was still holding discussions with interested parties.

A number of potential trade buyers, including Zurich, Allianz, Allstate and Warren Buffett’s Berkshire Hathaway, ruled themselves out of the running last year.

The bank, which is now part-owned by the government, is not expected to make any announcements on its insurance business until its annual general meeting next month.