Executives at Citigroup Inc.'s Primerica Financial Services have approached private-equity firms, including J.C. Flowers & Co., Blackstone Group LP and TPG Inc., to gauge their interest in buying its 100,000-person sales arm, people with knowledge of the matter said.

Executives started the discussions after Citigroup failed to find a buyer for the entire life insurance company during the past year, said the people, who declined to be identified because the talks are not public. Citigroup, the recipient of a $52 billion government bailout, has not endorsed the plan, the people said.

Primerica is part of Citi Holdings, created to house "noncore" units.

Primerica declined to comment, as did officials at Blackstone, TPG, and J.C. Flowers.

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