Bollinger’s Boss Bonus Goes to Employees

April 7, 2009

John A. (Jack) Windolf, Chairman and CEO of Short Hills New Jersey-based Bollinger Insurance, recently did something that was so remarkable it has made the national news. At a time when “bonuses” have become a dirty word, he directed that a payment, which was to be made to him, be shared out among all of Bollinger’s employees, with one notable exception – the CEO.

Windolf, who oversaw Bollinger’s growth from a small independent agency to one of the largest privately owned agencies in the U.S. (14th on the IJ’s Top 100 list), has always believed that “good employees” are the key to success.

Now, he’s backed up that statement with cash. Last year Evercore Capital Partners, a private equity fund, bought 51 percent of Bollinger’s shares. The remaining 49 percent are owned by the employees. As part of that transaction, “a deferred payment of $500,000 was to be made to Jack Windolf in 2009,” as detailed in a private e-mail.

Windolf insisted that a clause be inserted in the agreement that he could direct that payment to Bollinger employees. On March 17 he announced that the entire amount would be paid to them. He gave several reasons for his decision, including the fact that his employees would appreciate it and it would help the economy. But the last reason he gave stands out: “It is the right thing to do.”

That statement pretty much sums up why Bollinger has achieved the success it has – 2008 premium volume $830 million. The IJ’s April 6 issue profiles Bollinger, and Windolf’s gesture isn’t surprising, given his forthright business philosophy. It was somewhat surprising, however, when several Bollinger employees (who hadn’t seen the IJ’s profile) e-mailed us to bring the bonus payment to our attention.

Windolf’s initiative offers a salutary lesson in these difficult economic times, especially to executives in America’s greed capital across the Hudson River.

Source: Bollinger Insurance, Inc. (interviews and e-mail) –

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