Aviva Names Ex-AIA Head Wilson as Chief Executive Officer

Aviva Plc (AV/), the U.K.’s second-biggest insurer by market value, named Mark Wilson chief executive officer, six months after Andrew Moss stepped down.

Wilson, a former CEO of AIA Group Ltd. (1299), takes over in January, when Chairman John McFarlane, 65, relinquishes his executive powers, the London-based insurer said in a statement today.

By choosing an outside successor, the insurer passed over Finance Director Pat Regan and Trevor Matthews, CEO of the insurer’s U.K. unit, who were viewed by analysts as possible replacements. Following Moss’s departure in May after a shareholder revolt over pay and strategy, McFarlane pledged to exit 16 businesses that tie up 6 billion pounds ($9.5 billion) of capital to build reserves depleted by the European sovereign debt crisis.

Wilson’s background at AIA “has included the disposal of non-core operations and turning around of non-performing units,” said Matthew Preston, an analyst at Berenberg Bank in London, who rates the firm buy with a 480 pence 12-month price target. “Given Aviva’s focus on U.K. and European markets Wilson perhaps has less experience there than other names bandied around.”

Aviva rose rose 1.2 percent to 335.2 pence in London, valuing the company at 9.87 billion pounds.

Base Salary

Wilson will receive as much as 5.39 million pounds, comprising a base salary of 980,000 pounds an annual bonus of as much as 1.5 million pounds and a long-term incentives of as much as 2.94 million pounds, the insurer said. Moss’s base salary was 960,000 pounds.

Regan, who joined Aviva in 2010 from Willis Group Holdings Plc (WSH), where he was finance director, was the top internal candidate to replace Moss, according to analysts Eamonn Flanagan at Shore Capital Group Ltd. (SGR) and Barrie Cornes at Panmure Gordon & Co.

“I would particularly like to take this opportunity of thanking Pat Regan and the other members of the team for this achievement and the support that they have given me,” McFarlane said in the statement.

Wilson had been CEO of AIA, the Hong Kong-based life insurer, when it was owned by American International Group Inc. AIG CEO Robert Benmosche replaced Wilson in 2010 with Mark Tucker, saying in a staff memo that “it is critical that we put the best team on the field to ensure the success of AIA’s IPO.”

Wilson, 46, had spoken directly to AIG board members to advocate for an initial public offering of AIA, a person with knowledge of the plan said at the time. Benmosche had demanded more control over AIA at a board meeting, pushing for Wilson’s departure, the person said.

To contact the reporter on this story: Howard Mustoe in London at hmustoe@bloomberg.net.

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Edward Evans at eevans3@bloomberg.net

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