Ironshore CEO Kelley Talks Goals Under Liberty Mutual

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Longtime Ironshore Inc. CEO Kevin Kelley said his company has a genuine shot at becoming a “premier” specialty property/casualty insurance company, both domestically and abroad, now that Liberty Mutual Insurance is its corporate parent.

“I am dead serious,” Kelley said. “We can build a premier specialty property/casualty insurer. By knowing and utilizing the resources of Liberty Mutual, which are extensive both from the insurance product side and distribution side, but just as importantly [on the technology side], what we want to do is build the premier specialty property/casualty insurer of tomorrow.”

Kelley’s comments came shortly after Liberty Mutual closed its $3 billion acquisition of Ironshore from China’s Fosun international. Liberty Mutual touted the move as creating a global specialty business with $6.5 billion in net written premium. The insurer said it will combine its existing Liberty International Underwriters U.S. business and Ironshore’s U.S. specialty business under the Ironshore brand. In doing so, the combined entity becomes the sixth-largest writer of excess and surplus lines in the United States in terms of 2016 direct written premium.

Sean Kelly, Ironshore president and CEO of Ironshore U.S., will lead the combined operation and report to Kelley. Kelley, in turn, who has been in charge of Ironshore since late 2008 (two years after its founding), remains in charge of Ironshore proper and now reports directly to Liberty Mutual Chairman and CEO David Long. Ironshore also keeps its corporate identity and management team.

The sale ended Ironshore’s short and unusual tenure as a division of Fosun, which spent $2.3 billion to acquire Ironshore in phases from 2015 through 2016, and at one point wanted to spin it off with an IPO. Fosun had accumulated major debt in a 20-year acquisition spree, but then delayed the Ironshore IPO after running into U.S. government national security concerns over how Fosun would operate Ironshore’s Wright & Co., which provides professional liability coverage to U.S. government employees including the Central Intelligence Agency.

Wright was a small part of Ironshore’s overall business, but in late 2016, Starr Companies agreed to acquire Wright.

Not long after, Liberty Mutual’s successful bid to buy Ironshore from Fosun became public.

Kelley declined to comment on Fosun’s ownership tenure, choosing instead to focus on Ironshore’s new corporate parent.

“What Liberty brings is not just a [strong] balance sheet, but it brings a much broader commercial business,” Kelley said. “They have a very robust standard multiline commercial business that, quite frankly, gives us greater access to clients and further access to a broadened distribution.”

Kelley added that those elements are key to competing successfully in the future.

“When you look at the environment of today and tomorrow, I think you need to offer a very broad and complete set of products and services to a client base,” Kelley said. “Through ownership from Liberty Mutual, we not only get access to their balance sheet but to their other commercial businesses.”

Ironshore Will Remain Relatively Autonomous

While Kelley will be reporting to Long, he noted that he and Ironshore will be fairly autonomous.

“We’re going to be given the freedom to run our business, and I look forward to working with my new colleagues in a mutually beneficial way,” Kelley said. “We’ve got a pretty good opportunity with sufficient operating freedom to get and build what we want to build.”

Kelley believes he can build a unique company that happens to have a corporate parent. He noted as evidence of this his tenure leading Lexington Insurance Company from 1987 through 2008, while American International Group just happened to be the corporate owner.

“I know how to build a company within a large company structure,” he said. “I would anticipate the same kind of operating freedom that I had under AIG and look forward to the opportunity to build something special.”


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