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Markel, Black/White Associates

Markel Insurance Co. has agreed to acquire the social services program business of Black/White & Associates Insurance Brokers. The transaction is scheduled to close on April 1, 2007. Black/White’s Alameda, Calif., location will become a Markel underwriting and marketing office, and will continue servicing existing and new accounts.

The acquisition of this $24 million book of business and the addition of the staff and agents are part of Markel’s strategy to expand its social services business segment nationwide. Markel will retain Black/White’s agency network.

Unitrin, Merastar

Unitrin Inc. reported that its subsidiary, Trinity Universal Insurance Co., is buying Merastar Insurance Co. and its affiliates in a cash transaction valued at $45 million.

Merastar Insurance is based in Chattanooga, Tenn., and specializes in the sale of personal automobile and homeowners insurance through employer-sponsored voluntary benefit programs. For the year ended Dec. 31, 2006, Merastar recorded direct written premiums of approximately $54 million.

Unitrin said that Merastar would become part of its Unitrin Direct business segment and it plans to keep the Chattanooga operation. Donald G. Southwell, Unitrin chief executive officer, said his company beleives that Merastar’s worksite distribution channel will “nicely complement Unitrin Direct’s existing direct-to-consumer distribution channels and will accelerate Unitrin Direct’s progress towards achieving necessary economies of scale.”

Unitrin’s business includes Kemper Auto & Home, Unitrin Specialty and Unitrin Business Insurance, which sell through independent agents, and Unitrin Direct, which sells auto directly to consumers.

Zurich/Farmers Group, Bristol West

Swiss insurer Zurich Financial Services AG said that an American subsidiary intends to buy Bristol West Holdings Inc. for around $712 million, helping to beef up the Swiss insurer’s U.S. operations.

Bristol West, an auto insurer based in Davie, Fla., confirmed that it had agreed to be acquired by the Zurich’s subsidiary, Farmers Group Inc. The cash offer to Bristol West shareholders works out to $22.50 a share.

As part of the transaction, Farmers will immediately sell the underlying insurance business to the Farmers Exchanges, which Farmers Group manages but doesn’t own.

Bristol West provides liability and physical damage insurance in 22 states, focusing exclusively on private passenger cars. In 2006, the company reported gross written premiums of around $600 million.

The Hartford, UnitedHealth

The Hartford Financial Services Group, Inc. has agreed to sell its medical stop loss insurance business to National Benefit Resources Inc., a subsidiary of UnitedHealth Group, Inc. Terms were not disclosed.

The Hartford said all 102 stop loss employees will be offered jobs wth NBR.

The Hartford has approximately $200 million of stop loss premium with more than 800 self-funded employer plans. NBR has 20 years of experience in the stop loss industry.

Arthur J. Gallagher, The Producer’s Choice

Arthur J. Gallagher & Co. has acquired The Producer’s Choice Inc. of Coral Springs, Fla., a wholesale life insurance broker specializing in large case management, advanced sales support and substandard or hard-to-place cases.


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