CHICAGO -- Kemper Corp. management and General Electric Capital Corp. have intensified their battle for control of Kemper a week before the company's annual stockholders' meeting.

With an eye toward the Kemper meeting next Wednesday in Chicago, Kemper chairman and chief executive officer David Mathis yesterday pledged to allow a referendum next year on selling the company if its stock fails to trade at least $65 per share over a certain number of trading days.

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