Abernathy Out, Hooper In as CEO In Shake-Up at Cooper Gay Swett & Crawford

By | March 1, 2013

In a major personnel move, global wholesale insurance and reinsurance broker Cooper Gay Swett & Crawford has appointed Shaun Hooper as president and chief executive officer of its wholesale, reinsurance broking and underwriting operations in North America.

Hooper replaces J. Neal Abernathy, CEO since 2006, who the company said has left the business to pursue other opportunities.

Abernathy’s exit and Hooper’s appointment are part of a management shake-up, which comes following the closing of a deal last month in which the New York private-equity firm Lightyear Capital took a controlling interest in the firm. The company said that deal would help it make acquisitions and position it for an eventual initial public offering (IPO).

As part of the shake-up, Mike Brennan, previously a corporate sales director and division leader, has been promoted to a new role of CEO of wholesale and will take responsibility for all aspects of the wholesale business in the U.S., according to the company.

Michael Ruhe, also previously a corporate sales director and division leader, has been appointed president of sales, with responsibility for developing and growing the revenues of CGSC’s U.S. businesses.

Both will report to Hooper.

Hooper joined CGSC in July 2009 as head of group operations and was appointed chief executive officer of Cooper Gay, CGSC’s Lloyd’s and London market broker, in early 2011. In April 2012, he assumed a wider role within CGSC and led the commercial development of its global operations.

In his new role, Hooper will have overall responsibility for CGSC’s prominent U.S. brands, Swett & Crawford and Cooper Gay Re, as well as its underwriting businesses, including J H Blades & Co., Creechurch International Underwriters, Energy Technical Underwriters, Loxley and Managed Care.

The ousted Abernathy was named chief executive officer in May 2006. At that time the firm moved its corporate offices from Woodland Hills, Calif., to Atlanta, Ga., as part of a plan to consolidate administrative and support functions under Abernathy’s leadership. Prior to that, he held the position of president and chief operations officer at Swett & Crawford.

In July, 2010, the London-based Cooper Gay and Atlanta-based Swett & Crawford merged to create a global broker that today places more than $4 billion in premiums for clients in the London, U.S., and international insurance markets.

In September of last year, Hooper moved from Swett & Crawford’s parent company, CGSC, where he was group chief commercial officer, and assumed the role of chief operating officer at Swett & Crawford. Brennan and Ruhe were also named corporate sales directors at that time. They were to work closely with Abernathy, president and CEO, and Hooper. Brennan has been with the company since 1992, and Ruhe since 1987.

CGSC Group CEO Toby Esser directs the group’s operations from London.

In 2011, CGSC reported revenues of $344 million and EBITDA of $69 million.

In October of last year, CGSC announced it had an agreement with Lightyear Capital LLC and institutional co-investors for a substantial investment whereby the investor would own 55 percent of CGSC following the purchase of shares from existing shareholders and a substantial investment in new equity. Other terms were not disclosed.

“We have made no secret of our desire for an IPO as part of our overall journey. The current time is not right and in order to continue expanding, we sought investment from a third party; in this case, Lightyear Capital,” CGSC said at that time.

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