Bill Roberts, GEICO’s president and chief executive officer, has announced that he will retire in December 2020 after 35 years with the insurer. Replacing Roberts as CEO will be Todd Combs, one of Berkshire Hathaway’s investment managers.
Roberts, who turned 70 in November, began his career with GEICO in 1984 as an officer in the marketing department. He quietly took over as CEO in June 2018 after then-CEO Tony Nicely retired from the post without fanfare, while remaining chairman. GEICO, which is wholly owned by Berkshire, didn’t publicly announce the moves.
Over his 35-year career, Roberts has helped lead GEICO to become the second largest auto insurance company in the U.S.
He joined GEICO in 1984 and served as vice president of marketing from 1985 to 1991. He then served as assistant vice president for underwriting in GEICO’s regional office in Macon, Ga. He was elected group vice president in 1994 and senior vice president in 1997.
Roberts became executive vice president of GEICO in 2000 with responsibility for marketing and advertising, information systems, telecommunications and the Internet business unit, staff development, military marketing, and GFR sales. He also served as chairman of the GEICO Insurance Agency.
Roberts was named president and chief operating officer in 2013.
Roberts will become vice chairman of GEICO effective January 1, 2020.
Nicely, currently GEICO’s executive chairman, credited Roberts with doing “an outstanding job leading and growing” the company throughout his career. “Our results throughout his career have been excellent and our culture is strong. He has put in place a strong plan for the coming year,” Nicely said.
The new CEO will be Combs, who initially worked at Progressive Insurance Co. before switching to an investing career. Since 2010, Combs has been an investment manager at Berkshire Hathaway.
Combs will assume his position as GEICO’s CEO effective January 1, 2020. In addition to becoming GEICO’s CEO, Combs will continue to manage $14 billion of investments for Berkshire Hathaway.
Unlike Roberts who came from within GEICO, Combs hails from the investment team at Berkshire Hathaway. Before joining Berkshire Hathaway in 2010, Combs was CEO and managing member of an investment firm he helped found, Castle Point Capital Management, an investment partnership he founded in 2005 to manage capital for endowments, family foundations and institutions.
Prior to starting Castle Point, Combs held positions with Copper Arch Capital, Progressive Insurance and in government with the Florida Banking, Securities and Finance Division.
More recently, he played a role in the launch of Haven, the joint health insurance project of Berkshire, JPMorgan and Amazon.
“I am looking forward to taking on the responsibilities of CEO at GEICO,” said Combs. “They have a strong senior management team, a great organization of 40,000 employees, a great brand, and are a very successful insurance company.”
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