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Hayley Millar reports
"The 175-year-old company faces a call to abandon its mutual status"
 real 28k

Monday, 24 April, 2000, 16:53 GMT 17:53 UK
Standard Life members 'back sell-off'
fred woollard
Fred Woollard is behind the campaign
Europe's biggest mutual insurance society, Standard Life, is under further pressure to demutualise after a poll showed nearly nine in 10 members want a vote on such a move.

And nearly six in 10 of with-profit policyholders who would qualify for windfalls said they would vote in favour of demutualisation.

The work I am doing is creating 15bn of value to members

Carpetbagger Fred Woollard
A stock market flotation or straight sell-off of the Scottish company would lead to windfalls for policyholders of 6,000 or more, by raising about 15bn.

Standard Life Members Action Group, an internet-based team of carpetbaggers, will present a requisition for a demutualisation vote at the group's annual general meeting in Edinburgh on Tuesday.

The NOP poll of 500 owners of with-profits policies - the type which would qualify them to vote - found 87.7% backed a ballot.

SLMAG had its previous proposals for a vote thrown out by the Standard Life board in February on a technicality.

But this time, the carpetbaggers have received further legal advice and are confident their proposal will force a vote.

Poll disputed

Fred Woollard, an Australian fund manager organising the carpetbaggers, said: "Members overwhelmingly want the opportunity to vote on demutualisation and given that chance, our poll shows strong member support for conversion to plc status."

A Standard Life spokesman disputed the methods used in the poll, saying the company had received complaints from members at misleading questions.

He added: "We have never tried to deny people a vote, but the last requisition was invalid."

If he is successful, Mr Woollard personally stands to gain 150,000 from second-hand insurance policies he has bought in the group.

The 37-year-old said: "I am a successful fund manager. I would have made far more money in the past six months if I had been working in the City.

"The work I am doing is creating 15bn of value to members. I feel no embarrassment at making a very, very tiny piece of that."

A higher proportion of Scottish members favoured a chance to vote on demutualisation.

One of the other big Scottish life insurance companies, Scottish Widows, was sold to Lloyds TSB last year.

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09 Feb 00 | Business
Standard Life under attack
28 Feb 00 | Scotland
Standard Life repels boarders
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