Business Moves

February 24, 2008

Chartwell Independent Insurance Brokers

Chartwell Independent Insurance Brokers LLC, a Los Angeles-based wholesale and specialty insurance broker focusing on high-risk, hard-to-place coverage, has opened a new office in Scottsdale, Ariz., to help meet the growing need among property owners, managers and real estate developers for surplus lines insurance coverage, particularly for property catastrophe insurance. The new office will be headed by Merle Harris, Chartwell’s newly appointed senior vice president.

Harris has more than 20 years of retail and MGA brokerage experience. Prior to coming to Chartwell, Harris served as market development manager for MiniCo Inc., where he was responsible for premium production, agency appointments and relationship management. Harris also worked for High Desert Risk Managers, USF&G Insurance, and several other national operations.

Wood Gutmann & Bogart Insurance

Wood Gutmann & Bogart Insurance Brokers, based in Tustin, Calif., has become the broker of record for Pacific Risk Management and Services Inc. To meet its commitment to servicing Pacific Risk’s commercial insurance needs, Wood Gutmann & Bogart has opened an office in Redlands, Calif.

Joseph Cotugna Jr. has joined the firm to head the staff in this office. Cotugna brings 23 years of experience as a commercial insurance agent.

Arthur J. Gallagher, CEM Insurance

Arthur J. Gallagher & Co., an international insurance brokerage and risk management services firm headquartered in Itasca, Ill., has acquired Crist Elliott Machette Insurance Services Inc. of Oakland, Calif. Terms of the transaction were not disclosed.

Incorporated in 1993, Crist Elliott Machette Insurance Services Inc. (CEM) is a retail insurance broker offering risk management, commercial property/casualty and personal lines insurance products and services to clients throughout the United States. They specialize in the real estate and construction industries.

Michael Machette and his staff will continue to operate in their current Oakland location under the direction of James McFarlane, West Coast regional manager of Gallagher’s retail brokerage services division.

Universal North America, Houston General

Universal North America, a personal lines carrier based in Sarasota, Fla., began writing homeowner policies in Arizona and Nevada this month. Other personal lines products, such as auto and umbrella coverages, will become available soon. Expansion into Hawaii, Georgia and other states is expected later this year.

Universal will offer homeowners insurance, as well as flood insurance and home equipment protection, which covers mechanical breakdown for items such as air conditioning systems, telephone and security systems and swimming pool equipment. Auto and umbrella will be launched in Arizona later this year, followed by Nevada.

Universal North America Insurance Co., with corporate offices in Texas and Florida, also announced the company has agreed to acquire the renewal rights to approximately 11,500 policies from the personal lines portfolio of Canton, Mass.-based Houston General Insurance Exchange.

The acquisition includes homeowner and auto policies in Arizona, South Carolina and Texas. Policies will begin transferring to Universal North America in mid-March on their effective renewal dates.

Universal North America, began writing policies in Florida in 2004, entered the Texas market in 2005, South Carolina last year, and now writes in Arizona and Nevada as well. Universal North America’s parent company, Universal Group Inc., is an A.M. Best “A” (Excellent) rated carrier with more than $250 million in surplus.

ELM Brokers

ELM Insurance Brokers Inc., has opened two new offices.

One office is located in Concord, Calif., and will be managed by Michele Epstein, and the second is located in Mission Viejo, and will be run by Gregg E. Higgins.

Epstein began her insurance career in 1988 as a part-time data entry clerk. She went on to open and run an agency in San Francisco in 1990 and formed Attorneys Insurance Services in Concord in 1994. Through 2007, she was president of Attorneys & Professionals Insurance Services Inc., a full-service retail brokerage focusing on professional liability, primarily within California’s legal community.

Higgins has been a broker and director of field marketing since joining ELM in 2004. After retiring from the Navy in 1993, Higgins began his specialty lines career in the Boston office of AIG/National Union as an underwriting assistant. After numerous promotions, he was transferred to Arizona and appointed branch manager of the specialty lines division, a position he held until January 2000. Higgins subsequently was specialty lines underwriting manager for The Philadelphia Insurance Co.


Lockton, a large privately held insurance brokerage firm headquartered in Kansas City, Mo., has opened a Phoenix office. The new office marks its twentieth in the United States and its forty-sixth location globally.

Todd Newton, senior vice president and a 20-year insurance veteran, will direct the operation in Phoenix. Newton specializes in benefits planning and consulting, with an emphasis in alternative funding strategies for employers.

Todd joins Lockton from Brown & Brown Insurance, where he was executive vice president, specializing in design, pricing and implementation of benefit programs for major employers. He is an active member of the advisory forums for several insurance companies, stop loss firms, and third-party administrators. Prior to Brown & Brown, Todd was regional vice president for a national consulting firm that focused on benefit plan integration and third-party administration. Newton began his career in Kansas City with Home Life Insurance Co.


Travis-Pedersen and Associates expanded by opening a new office in Scottsdale, Ariz.

Matt Gervin, who worked in the Chicago office of Travis-Pedersen for three years, has relocated to Scottsdale. Gervin will be focusing on professional liability business in Arizona and surrounding territories. He will also work to develop property/casualty business out with the assistance of the company’s brokerage staff in Chicago.

In addition to Chicago and Scottsdale, Travis-Pedersen has offices in Grand Rapids Michigan and St. Petersburg Florida.

Hall & Associates, Independent Solutions United

Hall & Associates a Folsom, Calif.-based property/casualty insurance agency has merged with Independent Solutions United.

Both independent agencies are members of the Pacific Interstate Insurance Brokers group, which is currently comprised of 55 agencies throughout California, representing more than $100 million in insurance premium.

Scott Hall, owner of Hall and Associates Insurance Services, began his insurance career with Allstate Insurance and opened his independent agency in 2007. His extensive background in marketing and sales will be useful in his role at Independent Solutions, the company said.

Cordova Insurance Center Inc., DBA Independent Solutions United, has provided portfolio risk management for all lines of commercial and personal clients since 1959. The company provides coverage and risk management for clients as large as Fortune 500 companies, and as small as the family-owned small business. “Every client is important “is the motto of Kirby Wells the President of Independent Solutions United.

“This merger is one that helps both of our client groups” said Kirby Wells, president of Independent Solutions United, adding that the increased access of professional services will help Hall & Associates clients.

Scott Hall joins Independent Solutions as the senior vice president of marketing.

Mercator Risk Services, Tennant Risk Services

Mercator Risk Services, a specialty wholesale insurance broker, acquired Tennant Risk Services Insurance Agency LLC, a Hartford, Conn.-based wholesale broker and underwriting manager. Terms of the transaction were not disclosed.

Tennant Risk Services specializes in errors and omissions, directors and officers liability, employment practices liability, architects and engineers, medical malpractice and cyber liability among other things.

The combined firm will write slightly more than $110 million in premium with just under 70 people, Mercator’s CEO Chris Treanor said. Tennant President Bob SargentSargent will serve as an executive vice president and will head up the Hartford, Conn., office.

Treanor said he doesn’t anticipate there will be significant cost take-out as a result of the merger. “We want to make sure we have some capacity to grow,” he said. “We don’t see a whole lot of consolidation.” Mercator grew by 50 percent in 2007 and Tennant has grown in excess of 20 percent year-over-year, Treanor noted.

Tennant Risk Services will be branded under the Mercator name as Mercator Pro for professional liability and management liability, while small business risks will be under the name, Mercator Commercial Services.

General Star

Stamford, Conn.-based General Star Management Co. is consolidating its excess and primary units into a new casualty division.

“Clients will now work with a single underwriter and manager for both lines of business, ensuring faster decision making and ease of doing business,” says Joe Masjak, senior vice president of General Star.

Cole Palmer will serve as the Western regional manager, responsible for Los Angeles and Chicago. Jim Richardson has been appointed Eastern regional manager.


CBIZ Inc. has acquired substantially all the assets of NAIS Inc. effective Feb. 1, 2008. NAIS provides innkeepers insurance programs marketed through James Wolf Insurance and Old Line Insurance. NAIS, located in Frederick, Md., is one of the largest providers of innkeepers’ insurance in the United States.

NAIS recorded approximately $2.1 million in revenue over the past 12 months and has about 25 employees.

CBIZ provides professional business services such as benefits, accounting, valuation and medical practice management in the United States. CBIZ also provides employee services, including group benefits, property and casualty insurance, payroll, HR consulting and wealth management.

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