Former Owners Agree to Repurchase GuideOne

Just 10 months after selling his company to Des Moines, Iowa-based insurer GuideOne, Clifton Robinson is buying it back.

Robinson, the previous owner of National Lloyds Insurance Co. in Waco, Texas, signed a definitive agreement with GuideOne late last week. He signed it under the name NLASCO, a Delaware-based holding company owned jointly by longtime Arizona insurance man J.E. Murphy, his son, Jim L. Murphy, and C.C. Robinson Property Company Ltd., a limited partnership owned by Robinson.

But the repurchase isn’t limited to just National Lloyds. It also includes the purchase of Arizona-based American Summit, a company specializing in mobile home insurance and previously owned by Murphy. The company sold to GuideOne in April 1999.

“We’re thrilled to death about the purchase,” said Robinson, who remained as a consultant to GuideOne and National Lloyds even after he sold the company to GuideOne last year.

GuideOne has since decided to redirect its business, announcing in August it would close seven of its 12 national claims offices next year and sell a portion of its high-risk auto insurance in order to focus on core insurance niches, including church coverages.

As a result, the firm projected 200 layoffs at corporate headquarters and more cuts in field offices nationwide. GuideOne refused in August to discuss the implications the restructuring could have for acquired companies, but sources close to the issue said the restructuring would likely result in their sale, including National Lloyds and American Summit.

In 1999 and 2000, the company acquired Carnegie Holdings of Camarillo, Calif., a specialty insurance holding company; Personal Service Insurance Co. of Columbus, Ohio, an auto insurance company for high-risk drivers; American Summit and National Lloyds. GuideOne has refused comment on whether Carnegie or Personal Service will be sold. Chuck Smith, vice president at Carnegie, declined comment on the status of the company, saying “technically, we’re still GuideOne employees.” Officials at Personal Service did not return phone calls.

According to Jim Murphy, GuideOne was in the midst of determining how to reorganize when his father asked if GuideOne might be willing to sell the company back to him. A few days later, they offered him both American Summit and National Lloyds.

Murphy said too much money was involved to swing the purchase on their own, and they’d heard of Robinson’s well-respected business practices. A phone call and a little legwork was all it took to get Robinson involved in the deal.

“When the opportunity came back to me to buy my baby back, I jumped on it,” said Robinson, who added he had really missed the insurance industry during his partial hiatus. The deal was sweetened further by GuideOne’s asking price. According to Murphy, the two companies were purchased from GuideOne for about 65 percent of the amount for which they originally sold.

National Lloyds, with about 65 employees, will restructure under the new ownership, bringing back much of the old guard.