This summer upstart ACE engineered one of the largest
insurance takeovers in history, agreeing to acquire venerable
Chubb Corp. for more than $28 billion. A few weeks after
the deal was announced, ACE chairman and CEO Evan Greenberg was
in Warren, New Jersey, standing in the four-story atrium lobby
at Chubbs headquarters, looking up at unsmiling employees
who leaned over the railings to hear from their new boss.
This is like giving a speech in the Roman
Colosseum, the sinewy, shaven-skulled, 60-year-old
executive told his audience. I hope theres no lions
and that you dont choose to throw anything at me.
Nervous giggles cascaded down. Greenberg then enumerated the
many synergies and lucrative future he foresaw for the merged
company, which he pointed out would be named Chubb, not ACE.
I dont know any other way to show respect to
somebody to begin with than to say were going to take
your name, said the insurance industrys reigning
Months later, back at his midtown Manhattan headquarters, 45
stories above the theater district, Greenberg sounds less
self-effacing. Were still ACE, he tells
Institutional Investor in a two-hour interview that
displays his passion, brashness and edgy humor. We will
be ACE in Chubb clothing, he quips.
It has been an extraordinary journey for the son of fabled
insurance giant Maurice (Hank) Greenberg. For a quarter century
Evan worked for his father at
American International Group, expecting to take over what
was then the planets leading insurer. When that
didnt happen, he quit AIG in 2000 and sulked for more
than a year.
He plunged back into the industry after the 9/11 terrorist
attacks, joining ACE, a midsize, Bermuda-based reinsurer. Over
the next 14 years, he led ACE into 16 acquisitions, culminating
with the Chubb deal, which will create the sixth-largest U.S.
property/ casualty insurer by premiums. That would place the
new entity behind State Farm Insurance, Liberty Mutual Group,
Allstate Corp., Berkshire Hathaway and Travelers Cos.
Even more remarkable, this buying spree has taken place in
the aftermath of the global financial crisis, when most
insurers have been more intent on returning capital to
shareholders than spending it on acquisitions.
Youre never going to shrink your way to
greatness, Greenberg says of his firms more