Marsh & McLennan Approached by Willis Group

Insurance broker Willis Group Holdings has approached Marsh & McLennan with a view to starting talks about a possible takeover of Marsh & McLennan, CNBC has learned.

Willis , the world's third-largest insurance broker, declined to comment. Marsh & McLennan was not immediately available for comment. Marsh & McLennan shares were trading about 4 percent higher at $27.50.

In December, Marsh & McLennan said it would replace CEO Michael Cherkasky following a year of disappointing results and said it would evaluate strategies to boost shareholder value,
which is often considered code for a possible sale of assets.

Cherkasky had been under pressure since October 2004, when he took over in the middle of a bid-rigging scandal in which the company faced charges from then-New York Attorney General
Eliot Spitzer.

Marsh & McLennan also faces challenges from investors who might want the company broken up. Companies controlled by activist billionaire Nelson Peltz recently received approval
from the Federal Trade Commission to take a stake in Marsh & McLennan.

In August, Marsh & McLennan sold its Putnam asset management unit to Canada's Great-West Lifeco Inc for $3.9 billion, and a Toronto investment firm is trying to force Marsh & McLennan to spin off its Kroll security consulting unit and its Mercer human resources business.

Reuters contributed to this report