Poor, Bowen insurance firm to merge with J.B. Schaftel

June 19, 1993|By David Conn | David Conn,Staff Writer

The staff of Poor, Bowen, Bartlett & Kennedy, a Baltimore insurance brokerage, left work a bit early yesterday afternoon for a party. It was holding a wake for the end of one of Baltimore's oldest names in insurance, and a celebration of a pending merger that will result in one of the town's largest agencies.

In one month, the 104-year-old Poor, Bowen will merge with J.B. Schaftel Co., itself a Baltimore name since 1933. Both firms were purchased separately more than a year ago by American Phoenix Corp., a subsidiary of Hartford, Conn.-based Phoenix Home Life Insurance Co.

On July 16, both downtown agencies will move into new space in the Redwood Tower and begin doing business as American Phoenix. The combined agency will have about 40 employees and annual insurance commissions of between $4 million and $5 million, according to J.B. Schaftel Executive Vice President Robert Schaftel, whose father, the late Joseph B. Schaftel, had the temerity to start his company in the middle of the Depression.

"It's absolutely the logical growth of a family insurance agency," Mr. Schaftel said. "You need to be around $4 or $5 million in commissions to have any critical mass."

"The trend now is to either sell out or go with another agency," added David Nanney, the general manager at Poor, Bowen.

Mr. Schaftel said both agencies have focused on roughly the same product lines -- general commercial insurance and personal lines. They've just sold to "different sides of the street," he said.

"We started suffering a few years ago when Alexander and Alexander and some of the other large brokers started taking business away from us," Mr. Nanney said.

Both men cited cost savings that they hoped to realize from the combination, as well as the connections and administrative help that would be provided by their parent company, which is the 43rd-largest agency in the country. Phoenix Home had about $22 million in annual commissions and has offices in 10 cities.

Mr. Schaftel will be president of the new firm, while Peter Hoblitzell, the president of Poor, Bowen, will be chairman. Mr. Schaftel's brother, Stuart, will be vice chairman, and Mr. Nanney will be the office manager.

J.B. Schaftel, incidentally, is having its farewell party on Friday, Mr. Schaftel said.

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