Aspen didn't save PRI so now it can get on with saving itself, says Elliot Lane

So was Aspen the mystery white knight ready to charge to the rescue of liability start-up PRI Group? Who's Aspen? This is the nom de plume of reinvented Wellington Re, yet another precocious up-start, but of the Bermudian persuasion.

Brit's hostile intentions towards PRI are about as attractive to brokers as a handshake in Beijing or a square dance in Toronto. The infamous Iraqi information minister couldn't have put it better when PRI issued its statement advising shareholders to accept the generous offer from Brit. Mighty fine spin.

But why Aspen? Because it is not Wellington. There is no love lost between the UK division and its breakaway sister. Both have aggressive strategic plans to make their mark quickly. Valhalla for Wellington in the UK is a FSTE 250 listing. As one underwriter intimated: "It's about a race to make enough money so that Wellington can buy out Aspen, before it buys out them."

But PRI is very much the brainchild of it's founders Andreas Loucaides and Peter Matson. And without them, and in particular Matson, it probably would not survive.

Documents produced for PRI's flotation on AIM last year reveal that Loucaides and Matson both held 1,528,800 ordinary shares in May last year. Loucaides later received another 285,575 shares.

Also, the institutional investors Invesco, Insight Investment Management, the Shell Pension Fund and Lansdowne Partners are investors in both Brit and PRI.

Loucaides has the most to gain from any acquisition. Matson has the most to lose.

Lloyd's players are queuing up to grab more professional indemnity business. Other than Aspen and Brit, it is understood Kiln has begun scouting the market for a likely acquisition/poaching opportunity.

So will Matson stay on as chief underwriting officer? To paraphrase the now hackneyed phrase from the Iraq war, Brit may have won the war, but will it win the peace?

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