Skandia Chairman Bernt Magnusson stepped down Friday, saying he did not think it was appropriate for him to continue leading the firm at a time when the majority of the board does not back his belief that selling Skandia to Old Mutual is a smart move.

"I do not consider it right to continue to lead the work of the board when there are different opinions on an important and central issue," Magnusson said in a statement. "Now that the board has decided to reject the offer for the company, it is natural and in Skandia's best interests that I hand over the chairman's gavel to someone who shares the opinion of the majority within the board."

 

Lennart Jeansson, who replaces Magnusson, said he would wage a campaign to convince shareholders Skandia can stand on its own. The firm has also hired Goldman Sachs to help in this effort.

Only two other directors voted along with Magnusson on approving the sale, which, according to an analyst at JPMorgan, is not likely now. "Magnusson's departure may indicate that he and the other board members in favor of the bid are now feeling less comfortable that it will go through," Nick Byrne of JPMorgan told Reuters. "Or those board members against the bid are clearing the decks for their defense campaign."

Nonetheless, Old Mutual Chief Executive Officer Jim Sutcliffe remained positive his company would purchase Skandia, saying that a majority of Skandia's shareholders are in favor of it.

Separately, a Swedish newspaper reported that New York hedge fund Paulson has become the second-largest shareholder of Skandia, with a 5% stake. Fidelity, which holds 9% of Skandia stock, is the largest shareholder.

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