Universal Underwriters Sold to Equity Group

Universal Underwriters, an 83-year-old dealership insurance provider, is getting a new owner this summer. A San Francisco-based private equity firm, Hellman & Friedman LLC, is purchasing Universal from re-insurer Zurich Financial Services Group for $1.1 billion. Based in Overland Park, KS, Universal entered the retail F&I business with service contracts and credit insurance in 1968. It began operations

July 1, 2005

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Universal Underwriters, an 83-year-old dealership insurance provider, is getting a new owner this summer.

A San Francisco-based private equity firm, Hellman & Friedman LLC, is purchasing Universal from re-insurer Zurich Financial Services Group for $1.1 billion.

Based in Overland Park, KS, Universal entered the retail F&I business with service contracts and credit insurance in 1968. It began operations in 1922 when a group of Ford dealers formed an insurance company to protect their garages from fire and storm damage.

Hellman & Friedman spokeswoman Melissa Ma says the firm was attracted to Universal because of its control of about 40% of dealership property and casualty insurance, more than any other insurer, and 35% annual growth in service contract volume.

Universal says it wrote $1.5 billion in gross premiums last year from more than 2,000 dealers. Universal is a pioneer operator of F&I training courses and a long-running exhibitor at NADA convention expositions.

“We are very excited about their current strategy and current management,” Ma says.

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