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Life Health > Life Insurance

Investment Firm Asks For Seats On Board Of Life Insurer

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Oliver Press Partners L.L.C. says it wants more influence over the management of a large financial services company.

Oliver Press, New York, has filed a notice with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission stating that it intends to wage a proxy fight in an effort to put 3 directors of its choosing on the board of Phoenix Companies Inc., Hartford.

“We are taking this step because we believe strategic and operational changes are needed to enhance value for stockholders and to protect the long term interests of policyholders,” Augustus Oliver and Clifford Press, managing members of Oliver Press, New York.

Oliver Press, which says it and allies control 4.99% of the common shares of Phoenix, says it wants to nominate Oliver, a lawyer who serves on the board of Scholastic Corp., New York, to the Phoenix board.

Oliver Press also wants to nominate Carl Santillo, who has been an executive of American International Group Inc., New York, and John Clinton, a principal at Farmington Capital Management L.L.C., Hartford, a private equity firm that is a successor to a company formed by Conning & Company, Hartford.

The Oliver Press directors would seek a strategic review of Phoenix’s businesses, look into selling the company’s non-insurance operations, try to monetize the company’s “closed block” of insurance, and try to cut costs, Oliver and Press write in a letter to Phoenix Chairman Dona Young that was filed with the SEC.

The Oliver Press directors also would seek more rigorous oversight of Phoenix.

Since Phoenix converted to a stock company from a mutual, in 2001, the company’s share price has fallen 40%, and the company has created an unfunded special pension account for senior executives that has a value of $126 million, Oliver and Press write.

“We have a strong and independent board of directors, and we are all confident in our business plan to deliver value for our shareholders,” Young says in a response to the letter from Oliver and Press. “Moreover, we remain committed to constructive dialogue with our shareholders.”


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