Robinson joins Direct Line

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The Independent Online
Peter Robinson, the former Woolwich chief executive ousted for alleged financial irregularities, is to join Direct Line, the telephone insurer and financial services group.

Mr Robinson will report to Peter Wood, chairman at Direct Line, advising him and the company's management team on existing and future business opportunities.

He said yesterday: "I have got on extremely well with Peter Wood and his management team. It is refreshing to meet them and to join a group that has such tremendous possibilities and is free of dogma.

"Peter has said that he would like to see Direct Line emerging as the building society of the 21st century. The move into savings and loans has great potential. Looking at its pricing structure, it certainly looks capable of beating some of the mutuals at their game."

He added that he would not have a formal title at Direct Line, partly because his work would take place alongside existing management structures operating within the company. His remuneration at Direct Line is not known.

"I have been talking to quite a number of people and considering quite a number of options over the past few months," Mr Robinson said. "The appointment is substantially to advise on the strategic development of the company's various businesses."

Direct Line is the UK's biggest car insurer, providing cover to more than 2 million motorists and increasing numbers of home and contents policyholders. In the past two years, it has branched out into a wider range of financial services, including loans and mortgages, deposit accounts and life insurance.

Mr Wood, who founded the company was at one stage one of the highest- paid businessmen in Britain, earning up to pounds 18m a year until Royal Bank of Scotland, Direct Line's joint owner, bought out his bonus for pounds 24m in 1993.

Mr Robinson's new job comes almost exactly six months after he was forced to quit as chief executive at Woolwich, barely three months after being appointed.

His resignation in April from his pounds 300,000 post followed allegations of financial impropriety, mostly said to have taken place during Mr Robinson's brief period at the helm of Woolwich.

Sources within the society claimed that Mr Robinson had used company gardeners to carry out work to the grounds of his home in Kent. His family was also said to have gained the unauthorised use of a company Range Rover. Mr Robinson denied the allegations.