Weill’s Hamilton Buys Fairfax Units in Insurance Push

Hamilton Insurance Group Ltd., the reinsurer that counts Sanford “Sandy” Weill as non-executive chairman, acquired two units from Prem Watsa’s Fairfax Financial Holdings Ltd. as part of a push into primary coverage.

Hamilton acquired Valiant Insurance and Valiant Specialty Insurance, the Bermuda-based company said today in a statement that didn’t disclose terms. TIG Insurance, the Fairfax subsidiary that sold the businesses, agreed to take on their liabilities from before the transaction. The deal gives Hamilton a “clean slate” as it expands beyond reinsurance, according to the statement.

Chief Executive Officer Brian Duperreault is seeking to build Hamilton after forming the company with Two Sigma Investments LLC and vowing to use the hedge fund firm’s expertise with data to help underwrite insurance risks. Weill, the former head of Citigroup Inc., came aboard in January. The company in June hired Bob Deutsch as chief strategy officer to lead an expansion, including possible takeovers.

“We’re in every banker’s Rolodex,” Deutsch said in an interview. “We would absolutely consider other deals that are additive to the franchise.”

The new businesses will probably write some coverage this year “though it won’t be a lot,” and plan to expand in 2015, he said. They will be part of Princeton, New Jersey-based Hamilton USA, according to the statement.

Insurance Shift

Reinsurers provide backup coverage for primary carriers. Hedge fund managers have pushed into the business seeking tax advantages along with premium dollars that they can invest, driving down the cost of cost of coverage. That has pushed some companies including Axis Capital Holdings Ltd. to boost sales of primary coverage to business clients. Hamilton also plans to expand in the Lloyd’s of London market, Deutsch said.

With the acquisitions, Hamilton “will begin to explore in earnest the potential that data analytics represents for the insurance industry,” Duperreault said in the statement.

Duperreault’s firm last year took over the reinsurer that was established by billionaire Steven A. Cohen, who sold the company after his hedge fund agreed to pay $1.8 billion to settle U.S. charges of insider trading. Hamilton had more than $900 million in capital as of Sept. 30, according to the statement.

Fairfax acquired Valiant Insurance as part of its 2011 purchase of First Mercury Financial Corp. The unit was in runoff, meaning it had stopped selling new policies, and was transferred to the TIG operation, Fairfax said in its 2012 annual report.

“As we acquire businesses, we sometimes end up with redundant shell companies that can be monetized rather than dissolved,” Paul Rivett, the president of Fairfax, said in an e-mail.

Fairfax slipped 0.9 percent to C$509.34 at 11:54 a.m. in Toronto.

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