Gone Fishin’: California Agency Owner Sells to Specialize in Outfitters

By Don Jergler | November 29, 2012

Trinity Insurance Services Inc. has been purchased by McNeil & Company Inc. Insurance Risk Services out of New York in a move that gives McNeil a strong foothold in the West.

The deal was closed on Nov. 16., and terms were not disclosed.

Trinity, a Southern California-based multiline managing general agent and excess and surplus lines agency, offers an array of services, including bars, taverns and nightclubs, construction, professional liability, and technology.

But the program Trinity President Tom Gassen is most interested in pursuing for McNeil is AdvenSure, a program for fishing and hunting outfitters. The program also covers resorts and lodges, bed and breakfasts, inns, campgrounds, RV parks and even dude ranches.

Gassen, an avid fisherman, said it is a good time to sell, but the 75-year-old plans to stay on with McNeil to help bring on more outfitters in the Pacific Northwest as clients under the AdvenSure program.

“Tom has a home in Oregon and has done business up there for a number of years,” said Dan McNeil, president and founder of McNeil. “He’s looking at developing a great deal of business up there in the fishing guide industry.”

Gassen said there are several requirements for fishing and hunting guides, who are required to undergo continuing education and know first aid. Gassen will maintain an active role in the insurance business, but part of his efforts to build the fishing guide business for McNeil will be to go fishing, he said.

“That’s the greatest way to meet a guide,” he added.

Gassen started Trinity in 1986, and has been in the insurance business for six decades. Stepping into an easier life has been a long time coming, he said.

“Fifty-seven years, that’s enough,” Gassen said.

McNeil, which operates in 49 states, has been looking for a while to be able to better represent its accounts in the West.

“Dan’s programs are exclusive to McNeil and Co.,” Gassen said, noting that Trinity has several exclusive programs. “Between the two firms that gives us nine or 10 exclusive programs with top rated A+ carriers.”

McNeil and Gassen have known each other through the industry for roughly 10 years. McNeil started his company in 1990. McNeil offers a variety of lines, including products for fire departments, rescue squads, ambulance companies, car washes and guides and the leisure industry.

“We’ve been wanting to find a facility that could support our footprint out there in the West coast,” McNeil said. “It’s a very exciting market. Basically I wanted a presence out there that would allow easier access for the agents to do business with us. We’ll be moving underwriting operations (out West) to support all of our programs out there to service both the Pacific and Mountain time zones.”

Gassen said he likes being purchased by McNeil, as the firm is hands on with its clients and is “very risk managment and loss control involved in all of their accounts.”

McNeil said they plan to beef up the number of employees as well. “We’re going to probably be adding,” McNeil said.

McNeil dispelled any thoughts of retiring Gassen, and said he plans to keep him on for quite some time, and it’s still not clear what if any title Gassen will hold going forward.

“He’s 75 years old. I think he’s good for another 20 years,” McNeil quipped.

While neither man would offer details on the purchase, Gassen noted that the timing of purchase, just before the end of the year, wasn’t a factor in the sale, and he called the acquisition deal “satisfactory.”

“The big buzz word in mergers and acquisitions has been EBITDA,” he said, referring to a common practice in middle market acquisitions in which buyers and sellers establish target prices based on multiples of earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortization. “That’s been used a lot since the soft market has been affected things negatively, which may be made mergers and acquisitions more advantageous for the acquirer than seller.”

Gassen said he and McNeil did discuss EBITDA, but that “we came up with a merger and acquisition agreement that’s satisfactory to both of us, and that’s all I’m going to tell you.”

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Latest Comments

  • November 30, 2012 at 2:08 pm
    Cheri - Former Trinity Employee says:
    Congratulations Tom!!!
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