Current Affairs

Gay entrepreneur in £13m lawsuit

Tony Grew May 3, 2007
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One of the biggest insurance companies in the world has been accused of reneging on a deal with a small gay business, causing it to fold.

Ivan Massow, sometime political activist and gay entreprenuer, will have his £13m claim against Zurich for negligence, misrepresentation and breach of contract heard at Bristol Crown Court next month.

The legal proceedings have attracted considerable media interest.

“They completely destroyed my credibility as a financial adviser to the gay community,” Mr Massow said.

He accused the company of homophobia on a massive scale.

In 1990, when the AIDS panic was at its height, the only way most gay people could even get a mortgage was by lying about their sexuality.

Some insurance premiums for gay men jumped by 600%. Other companies refused to insure gay people.

Mr Massow took on the industry and fought for gay equality in financial products.

He claims that Zurich approached him in 2003 and Massow Financial Services entered into a franchising agreement with them.

The insurance giant lent Mr Massow’s company £330,000 as part of the deal.

Initially sceptical, Mr Massow says he was persuaded that Zurich were committed to making their policies more gay-friendly.

However, he claims that it quickly became clear that Zurich were not going to alter their policies, and claims they were more interested in accessing his client database.

Mr Massow withdrew from the franchise agreement and soon after Massow Financial Services went out of business.

Zurich then asked for their money back.

Mr Massow, 39, told

“One of the saddest aspects of this case is that people like Zurich have been assisted by other gay financial services companies. I never put a gay competitor down, I just attacked the insurance industry.

“I can’t believe they are helping companies like Zurich and not joining in the fight. I have no commercial reason for saying this – I don’t have a company anymore.”

Mr Massow’s claim will be heard next month at Bristol Crown Court after the judge refused Zurich’s request that it be dealt with without a trial.

Hélène Barnes, a spokeswoman for Zurich, denied the company is homophobic but refused to disclose if the way they treat gay clients has changed.

The company will “vigourously defend” the claim, she told The Independent.

“We take allegations of discrimination very seriously and employ robust procedures to ensure full investigations are carried out and appropriate action is taken wherever necessary,” she said.

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