Exclusive - Another former Cox chief executive, Michael Dawson, has emerged as the chief rival to Neil Utley's bid to buy Cox Insurance Holdings

Sources close to the insurance group reported that Dawson was leading the Kohlberg Kravis Roberts (KKR) bid for Cox, in a deal that was likely to be agreed before Christmas.

The source said: "The pressure is on to get the deal settled by Christmas. Both Cox chief executive Andrew Fisher and major shareholders Warburg Pincus want to see this thing done."

The insider pointed to the fact that Fisher stood to make a sizeable bonus for early completion of the deal and that Warburg Pincus, which owns just under 25% of the company, was anxious to either realise its investment in Cox or buy out the other shareholders and take the company private.

A market source said: "Warburg Pincus is the major driver in this sale. The venture capitalists are either going to sell to one of the potential bidders or pull out, watch the share price fall and then take the company private at a reduced price."

As reported previously in Insurance Times, Utley is leading a bid made up of Englefield Capital, Duke Street Capital and Lloyds TSB's private equity arm.