Axa SA, France’s biggest insurer, sold a majority stake in its private equity unit to its management, led by founder Dominique Senequier.

The transaction values Axa Private Equity, which oversees about $36 billion, at about 510 million euros ($690 million), the Paris-based insurer said in a statement today. The business will change its name to Ardian.

Axa will cut its stake to about 23 percent, leaving the unit’s managers with about 46 percent of the company and a group of investors including a number of unidentified French family offices with the remainder, the company said today.

The French insurer will invest about 4.8 billion euros in Ardian’s funds between 2014 and 2018. The insurer said in September 2011 it was reviewing the future of its private equity business and in March 2013 entered exclusive talks with Senequier, who started the unit in 1996.

“We spent a long time building a company inside Axa and, from the start, we carved out a separate identity for investment excellence,” she said in today’s statement. “Our investment skills will serve our clients well.”

Editors: Edward Evans, Keith Campbell