SAN FRANCISCO — An investor group, led by San Francisco-based private equity firm Hellman & Friedman LLC, has signed a stock purchase agreement to acquire Universal Underwriters Group from Zurich Financial Services Group in a deal valued at approximately $1.1 billion.
Founded in 1922, Universal Underwriters is the leading provider of property and casualty insurance to U.S. franchised automotive dealerships with an approximate 40 percent market share. Distributing primarily through a direct sales force, Universal Underwriters specializes in providing tailored insurance and financial services to franchised auto, truck, equipment, and motorcycle dealers, as well as the automotive aftermarket sector and has been in business for more than 80 years of experience.
Investing alongside Hellman & Friedman will be Farallon Capital Management LLC, GIC Special Investments Pte Ltd., and Universal Underwriters’ management. Post closing, the investor group will own 100 percent of Universal Underwriters. The transaction is expected to close in the third quarter of 2005, subject to regulatory approval.
“Universal Underwriters is an ideal fit with Hellman & Friedman’s investment philosophy and continued focus of investing in companies with strong management teams and defensible and enduring business franchises,” said Brian Powers, CEO of Hellman & Friedman. “This is the latest example of our working closely with an owner to negotiate and structure a very complicated transaction in a constructive and confidential manner.”
Universal Underwriters has maintained its own brand identity since it was acquired by Zurich in 1982. For the fiscal year ending December 31, 2004, the company generated approximately $1.5 billion in gross written premium. The company currently employs approximately 1,800 people in its Overland Park, Kan., headquarters and 28 regional offices located throughout the U.S.