Business Moves

October 5, 2009

Willis, Ireland

Willis Group Holdings Limited wants to change the company’s place of incorporation from Bermuda to Ireland. Shareholders will vote on the measure at a meeting in three or four months. The change also requires the approval of the Supreme Court of Bermuda.

If and when the change is approved, a new Irish public limited company, Willis Group Holdings plc, will replace Willis Group Holdings Limited as the ultimate public holding company of the Willis Group.

Chairman and CEO Joseph J. Plumeri said that Willis considered Ireland’s membership in the European Union, as well as a “long history” of international commercial relationships, trade agreements and tax treaties with European Union member states, the U.S. and other countries around the world where Willis does business.

Willis also indicated that being domiciled in Ireland would provide a “more stable environment with the financial and legal infrastructure to meet Willis’ needs, as well as helping it maintain a competitive worldwide effective corporate tax rate.” Willis has been doing business in Ireland since 1903.

Willis said it doesn’t expect the redomestication to cause any material changes in its financial results and day-to-day operations. It will also continue to be registered with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) and will be subject to SEC reporting requirements, as if a U.S. domestic company. Willis’ shares will continue to trade on the New York Stock Exchange under the ticker symbol WSH.

QBE, CIGNA

New York-based QBE has acquired the CIGNA special risk, student and sports accident insurance book of business. This portfolio provides medical expense coverage for students, athletes and participants in camps, clubs, day care centers and a broad range of other youth and adult group activities.

Key members of CIGNA’s existing specialty accident unit are joining QBE and relocating to a new office in Plymouth Meeting, Pa. QBE is retaining CIGNA’s current managing general agents and third party administrators. They will work with QBE Specialty’s New York-based health team, directed by senior vice president, Thomas Leonardo.

Equity Risk Partners

Equity Risk Partners (ERP) has launched a new practice unit, the Infrastructure and Privatization Group.

ERP, based in San Francisco, focuses on the needs of the private equity industry.

“With billions of dollars dedicated to future infrastructure improvements combined with the trend towards privatization, we are expecting rapid growth in these areas as the economy rebounds,” said Michael Marcon, CEO of ERP.

To head the new operation, Equity Risk Partners has brought in industry veteran Peter French, who comes to ERP from Willis HRH, where he served as the national practice leader for HRH’s construction practice. Prior to his time with Willis Group, French held a variety of positions with Marsh in the Denver, San Francisco, Los Angeles and San Diego offices, mastering the insurance business from all angles.

Feek, Conover

Washington’s Feek Justice Financial has entered into a partnership with personal and commercial lines independent agency, Conover Insurance. As a result of the new partnership, Conover Insurance has established a division that will operate as Feek Justice Financial.

Feek Justice Financial is celebrating 40 years of business this month and will provide generational estate and business planning for families and businesses, as well as alternative investment services.

Jim Feek, formerly the president of the Kirkland, Wash.-based firm bearing his name, has assumed the role of managing director of Feek Justice Financial.

Conover Insurance is an independent agency specializing in commercial and personal insurance, employee benefits and financial services. Founded in 1923, the agency has offices throughout the Pacific Northwest.

Kingsway, Zephyr

Toronto-based Kingsway Financial Services Inc. has agreed to sell Zephyr Insurance Co. Inc. to Zephyr Acquisition Co., an acquisition vehicle of Ocean Harbor Holding Inc. and MP Holdings LLC, a Hawaiian based investor group.

The transaction is expected to be completed during the fourth quarter of 2009 subject to the receipt of regulatory approvals.

Zephyr is a specialty property insurance company that insures Hawaii homeowners against catastrophic loss due to hurricanes.

For the first six months of 2009, Zephyr had gross premiums written of $36 million, or 7 percent of the premiums of the Kingsway group of companies, and produced an underwriting profit.

Kingsway anticipates receiving initial gross proceeds from the transaction of $31.5 million U.S., plus a contingent, deferred earn-out amount.

Kingsway focuses on non-standard automobile insurance in North America. The company operates through wholly-owned insurance subsidiaries in Canada and the U.S. It has been consolidating, laying off workers, and selling off some non-core assets to recover from larger-than-expected losses and to restore the company’s financial condition.

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Insurance Journal West October 5, 2009
October 5, 2009
Insurance Journal West Magazine

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