Pennsylvania’s Harleysville Mutual Insurance Company and Harleysville Group Inc. announced that Walter R. Bateman, CPCU, chairman of the board and chief executive officer of both companies and president of Harleysville Mutual, has informed their respective boards of directors of his decision to retire as of December 31, 2003.
Harleysville also announced that the boards had elected Michael L. Browne as the new non-executive chairman of the board for each company.
The boards issued a statement following Bateman’s announcement, as follows:
“Harleysville Insurance has benefited from Walt Bateman’s executive leadership during his 15 years with the company. At this time, we want to acknowledge his numerous accomplishments. Under his leadership, Harleysville Insurance completed a number of significant acquisitions — including those of the Lake States Insurance Company in 1993, Minnesota Fire and Casualty Insurance Company in 1997, Boyertown Mutual Insurance Company in 1997 and the 2003 acquisition of the Penn Mutual Insurance Company business — which together facilitated the organization’s expansion from 18 states to its current presence in 32 states. On a consolidated basis, the companies’ direct written premiums have grown 75 percent — to nearly $1.2 billion — since 1991, and Harleysville Group’s market capitalization went from $264 million at year-end 1991 to $790 million in 2002. In 1999, Walt spearheaded Harleysville’s strategy to become the premier provider of insurance products and services for small business and individuals, and has driven the strategic consolidation and branding of Harleysville’s various regional companies and its positioning theme ‘Good people to know.'”
A fiurther statement said: “The boards of directors are pleased to announce the election of Michael Browne as non-executive chairman. Michael has served as a director of Harleysville Group since it went public in 1986. He was elected to Harleysville Mutual’s board today. We believe that the appointment of an independent chairman with Michael’s experience and industry stature will prove beneficial to both companies and their key stakeholders.”
From 1980 to 1983, Browne served as Pennsylvania Insurance Commissioner. He currently oversees the international insurance practice group for the law firm of Reed Smith, LLP, in Philadelphia, which he joined as a partner in 1983. He was the firm’s managing partner of its Delaware Valley regional office from 1993 through 2000.
“I am honored to serve as chairman of Harleysville’s board,” Browne commented. “As we work through this transition period, we now focus our attention on identifying the best person to serve as chief executive officer of Harleysville Insurance. We have begun a full exploration of the longer- term options we have contemplated in our leadership succession plans. Until a new chief executive officer is named, the Harleysville senior management team will report to the board of directors. We have the utmost confidence that the senior management team will ensure that the companies maintain momentum in the advancement of our strategy and on a course for long-term growth and prosperity.”
The announcement also noted that “Bateman joined Harleysville in 1988 as senior vice president of field operations and was elected a director, president and chief operating officer in 1992. He was named chief executive officer in 1994 and appointed chairman of the boards of both companies in 1998.”
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