MetLife Buys Allstate Unit to Add Group Legal Sales

MetLife Inc., the largest U.S. life insurer, has purchased a business providing group legal-services coverage from Allstate Corp., adding to its Hyatt Legal Plans business.

The Signature LegalCare unit will be part of Hyatt Legal, the New York-based insurer said today in a Business Wire statement. It didn’t disclose terms of the deal.

Chief Executive Officer Robert Henrikson is seeking to expand MetLife’s coverage of companies and groups. The firm acquired Odonto A Saúde Empresarial in 2008 to add dental insurance in Brazil. Hyatt Legal, which MetLife bought in 1997, provides members with services such as preparation of wills and basic consultations.

“We pick up some market share and get rid of a competitor,” Bill Brooks, CEO of Hyatt Legal Plans, said of the Allstate deal in an interview. The MetLife subsidiary gets most of its business from plans in which employees pay for benefits, a market which is “growing rapidly,” Brooks said.

MetLife rose $2.40, or 6.5 percent, to $39.29 at 4:15 p.m. in New York Stock Exchange trading. Northbrook, Illinois-based Allstate rose 63 cents, or 2.3 percent, to $28.06.

Hyatt Legal has more than 1,300 group clients, serving more than 6 million people, Brooks said. The Cleveland-based unit employs about 100 people, and won’t take on any of the about 13 workers at the Allstate unit, Brooks said. MetLife is simply buying the Allstate book of business, Brooks said.

Allstate acquired Signature LegalCare as part of its 2008 purchase of Partnership Marketing Group, said Maryellen Thielen, a spokeswoman for the insurer.

“As a small provider of group legal plans, Signature LegalCare does not fit into Allstate’s core business strategy,” Thielen said in an e-mailed statement.