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Markel to Buy Aspen, Add Workers’ Compensation Sales

July 14 (Bloomberg) -- Markel Corp., the Richmond, Virginia-based insurer, will spend at least $135 million to acquire closely held Aspen Holdings Inc. to add sales of workers’ compensation coverage for small businesses.

Aspen, which does business as FirstComp, will operate as a separate business unit, Markel said today in a statement distributed by PR Newswire. Its shareholders will receive cash payments of $135 million plus stock option value, Markel said.

Markel is betting on a rebound in workers’ compensation insurance as it targets smaller markets. Rates for commercial property and casualty coverage declined 5.3 percent in the first quarter after a 5.6 decline in the prior period, the Council of Insurance Agents & Brokers said in an April report.

“Aspen’s workers’ compensation expertise can be brought to bear to service current Markel customers,” said Mike Crowley, Markel’s president and co-chief operating officer, in the statement.

Fairfax Financial Holdings Ltd., the Canadian insurer run by Prem Watsa, purchased Zenith National Insurance Corp. earlier this year for about $1.3 billion in cash, adding workers’ compensation sales in California.

To contact the reporter on this story: Sarah Frier in New York at sfrier@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Dan Kraut at dkraut2@bloomberg.net

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