Business Moves

July 23, 2007

Willis, InsuranceNoodle

Willis Group Holdings Limited, the global insurance broker, has acquired Chicago-based InsuranceNoodle, an Internet distributor of U.S. small business insurance. Terms of the transaction were not disclosed.

InsuranceNoodle offers Willis a proprietary Web-based technology platform for online application and quoting from multiple carriers for a variety of commercial insurance products.

InsuranceNoddle’s technology will provide a foundation for Willis Small Commercial to pursue the small business insurance market, according to the firms.

Willis is also getting an electronically linked managing general agency, Noodle Specialty Brokers, which is also designed for the small business market.

InsuranceNoodle says it currently works with more than 2,500 active agencies across the country.

Joe Plumeri, Willis chairman and CEO, said InsuranceNoodle, with its technology and relationships with insurance carriers and agents across the country, offers “a greatly improved, lower-cost way to reach and service this key market in the U.S.”

Don Urbanciz, InsuranceNoodle holding company CEO, who will become North American CEO for Willis Small Commercial, said he sees the alignment with the large broker leading to more product and service offerings and deepened access to carriers.

Kathryn Emmerson will remain CEO of InsuranceNoodle, which will continue to operate under its brand name as a division of Willis Small Commercial.

Andrea Paris, who prior to the transaction was promoted to lead the centralization of Willis’ small commercial business, continues in that role and will assist the InsuranceNoodle management team in integrating its business model into the company.

Northeast Bank, Russell Agency

The insurance subsidiary of Northeast Bank, Northeast Bank Insurance Group Inc., announced that Russell Insurance Agency, located in Madison, Maine, will join the group. Opened in the 1960s, Russell Insurance Agency is the fourth agency within the last six months to join Northeast Bank Insurance Group.

The agency is family-owned and has been operated for the past 15 years by Laura and R.J. Russell II. After the signing, Craig Sargent and Laura Russell will relocate the Russell Insurance Agency staff to Northeast’s location in Anson, since the offices were located within one-half mile of each other. Owners Laura and R.J. Russell II will continue to work in the market to develop both personal and commercial lines of business, and Linda Garceau will stay on as a customer service representative.

With the addition of Russell Insurance Agency, Northeast Bank Insurance Group will be operating 11 insurance offices throughout western, central and southern Maine: Anson, Auburn, Augusta, Bethel, Jackman, Livermore Falls, Mexico, Rangeley, Scarborough, South Paris and Turner.

People’s United, Chittenden

People’s United Financial Inc., the holding company for People’s United Bank in Bridgeport, Conn., has agreed to acquire similarly-sized Chittenden Corp. of Burlington, Vermont, in a stock and cash transaction valued at $1.9 billion.

The combined company will have assets of approximately $22 billion.

People’s United Bank, one of the largest independent banks in Connecticut with assets of $11 billion, currently operates 160 branches, 75 of which offer banking in Super Stop & Shop supermarket locations across Connecticut. People’s United insurance subsidiaries include R.C. Knox and Beardsley, Brown Bassett.

Chittenden currently has 133 offices in Vermont, New Hampshire, Maine and western Massachusetts through six bank subsidiaries. Chittenden’s subsidiaries include Chittenden Insurance, formerly Pomerleau Agency, which it acquired in 1997. Chittenden Insurance Group acquired the assets of GSBI Insurance of Portsmouth, N.H., in 2004.

The purchase price is approximately $1.9 billion, of which approximately 55 percent is in cash and 45 percent in People’s United Financial stock. The acquisition is subject to approvals by regulators and Chittenden Corp.’s shareholders. It is expected to close in first quarter of 2008.


Insurance holding company NYMAGIC, Inc. reported it has closed on an agreement with workers’ compensation services firm CRM Holdings Ltd. to have CRM assume almost all of the excess workers’ compensation policies that NYM had written in conjunction with CRM during the past several years.

NYM said it will realize a pre-tax benefit of approximately $ 6.7 million while CRM expects a pre-tax benefit of about $1.9 million on the deal.

According to A. George Kallop, NYM president and chief executive officer, the relationship under which NYM has for several years written a book of excess workers’ compensation insurance in conjunction with CRM is ending. “When our corporate paths diverged, we parted company on good terms, and this transaction enabled us to crystallize our profits from this book while enabling CRM to manage it independently going forward,” Kallop said.

Kallop said NYM will continue writing excess workers’ compensation with other partners in the future.

NYMAGIC Inc.’s subsidiaries specialize in ocean marine, inland marine and non-marine liability insurance. The company maintains offices in New York and Chicago.

CRM Holdings Ltd. offers fee-based management and other services to workers’ compensation self-insured groups and traditional workers’ compensation insurance products in New York, California and Texas. It provides its traditional workers’ compensation insurance coverage primarily to employers in California but also has active operations in Alaska, Arizona, Nevada, Oregon, Washington and, starting on April 1, 2007, New Jersey.

Farmers, Bristol West

Los Angeles-based Farmers Insurance Group has completed its acquisition of non-standard auto insurer, Bristol West Holdings Inc., based in Davie, Fla. Farmers officials described the acquisition as a “great fit.” Bristol West has been providing nonstandard, private passenger auto insurance to Florida residents since 1973. Since that time, it has grown to provide liability and physical damage insurance as well, operating in 26 states.

Hales & Co., WFG Capital Advisors

Hales & Co. Inc. in New York, an investment banking firm specializing in the insurance industry, has acquired the insurance financial firm, WFG Capital Advisors LP of Harrisburg, Pa.

Founded in 1973, Hales is one of the oldest firms providing mergers and acquisitions and corporate finance advice to the insurance industry. Since 2005, the firm reports it has completed over $1.0 billion of transactions.

WFG, founded in 1996, is a national financial advisory firm focused on mergers and acquisitions and strategic consulting for the insurance industry.

Rob Lieblein, president and CEO of WFG, will join the Hales organization.

Merchants Preferred

Merchants Mutual Insurance Co. announced that its recently formed subsidiary, Merchants Preferred Insurance Co., issued its first insurance policy, a commercial auto policy, in New Hampshire effective July 1, 2007.

Merchants Preferred will target preferred property and casualty commercial and personal lines risks, while Merchants Mutual targets standard risks.

The creation of Merchants Preferred comes after the acquisition, announced last November, of Merchants Group Inc. and Merchants Insurance Co. of New Hampshire Inc. by American European Group Inc. As part of that deal, Merchants Mutual and its new subsidiary, Merchants Preferred, got the exclusive right to renew all of Merchants Insurance Co. of New Hampshire Inc.’s independent agency business. Merchants also retained use of the name “Merchants.”

American European Group Inc., which bought Merchants Group, is a Delaware insurance holding company with headquarters in New York City. Through its operating subsidiaries, including Rutgers Casualty and Rutgers Enhanced Insurance, it offers personal and commercial insurance, primarily in New York and New Jersey. Another of its subsidiaries, Kentucky National, is in runoff.

Neither Merchants Group nor Merchants Insurance Co. of New Hampshire Inc., with approximately $50 million in property casualty business, had any assets or employees. The business operations had been managed by Merchants Mutual for years. The parties have ended that agreement.

The new company, Merchants Preferred, recently earned an “A-” (excellent) rating with a stable outlook from the A.M. Best Co.

Merchants Mutual and Merchants Preferred comprise Merchants Insurance Group, which sell through independent agents in the Northeast and Midwest. Corporate headquarters is in Buffalo, N.Y. Merchants also operates offices in Hauppauge, N.Y.; Albany, N.Y.; Moorestown, N.J.; Manchester, N.H., and Columbus, Ohio.

U.S. Risk, Boston Insurance Brokerage

U.S. Risk Insurance Group Inc., a managing general agency and surplus lines wholesaler headquartered in Dallas, has expanded into New England by acquiring Boston Insurance Brokerage Inc. in Boston.

Boston Insurance Brokerage is a wholesale broker with a production base of more than 800 producers in New England and estimated premiums of $40 million. It will become a subsidiary of the division of U.S. Risk that offers wholesale excess and surplus lines.

Gordon Bewick, president of Boston Insurance Brokerage, and his staff will stay on at Boston Insurance Brokerage, retaining that trade name for a least a year. Financial terms of the acquisition were not disclosed.

U. S. Risk Insurance Group Inc. offers its products and services through its affiliate companies which include U.S. Risk Underwriters, U.S. Risk Brokers, Lighthouse Underwriters, LLC, Professional Claims Managers, Omnisure Consulting Group, NCG Professional Risks Ltd. (London), and NovaPro Risk Solutions, LP.

From This Issue

Insurance Journal West July 23, 2007
July 23, 2007
Insurance Journal West Magazine

2007 Excess, Surplus and Specialty Markets Directory, Vol. II; 2nd Quarter Market Survey