McEldowney Firm to Get New Name

Article excerpt

By Nancy Raiden Titus

Journal Record Staff Reporter

A new name is coming to 125 Park Ave.

The 81-year-old Oklahoma City insurance agency doing business for years as McEldowney, McWilliams, Deardeuff Journey Inc. will become Hilb, Rogal Hamilton Co. of Oklahoma on Jan. 1.

The agency merged with the Richmond, Va.-based Hilb Rogal firm three years ago, so the planned name change does not indicate a change in ownership or operation. Rather, it is being done to provide consistency with the national organization.

"At the end of three years, all our clients know who we are," said William Chaufty, president. "Our companies (insurance carriers) know who we are, and most of our prospects know who we are. They know the success we've had, and they know the legal name of the company.

"HRH, on a national scale, is much more prominent than McEldowney, McWilliams, Deardeuff Journey. In fact, we're probably losing out because we haven't changed our name."

Customers will see the change as a flip-flop on the company's letterhead. Since the 1989 merger, it has read: McEldowney, McWilliams, Deardeuff Journey, a Hilb, Rogal and Hamilton Company. After Jan. 1, it will read: Hilb, Rogal and Hamilton Co. of Oklahoma, a continuation of McEldowney, McWilliams, Deardeuff

Journey.

Perpetuation of the agency was the primary reason McEldowney McWilliams pursued the merger with Hilb Rogal in the first place, Chaufty said.

"Agencies always have to think about perpetuation."

The issue that brought the perpetuation discussion to a head at the Oklahoma City firm was a stroke James McEldowney had in 1984. His stake in the company was purchased by Bill McWilliams, Stan Deardeuff and Dwight Journey through a loan from United States Fidelity and Guaranty Co., one of its carriers.

Chaufty said the firm wanted to find another way to ensure continuation without going through the constant cycle of incurring debt in order to purchase the shares of a senior owner.

The Hilb Rogal merger fit that bill. The company offered the Oklahoma clients of McEldowney McWilliams the advantages of being part of a national organization that was publicly traded. Yet it also left control firmly in Oklahoma City. The merger was done through a stock trade in a pooling of interest, and was one in which "no one came; no one left."

The public aspect of Hilb Rogal meant that employees could buy or sell stock as they chose.

"Now we can look at the paper and see what we're worth. We can see the HRH stock. This also gives us the ability to sell a retiring owner's stock because there is a market for it. And employees _ or clients _ can own stock."

Hilb Rogal's decentralized management style made the merger "the most viable way of perpetuation," Chaufty said. "They understand that. Who else would know better how to run an agency in Oklahoma City than we who have done it all these years?"

The merger thus solved half of the perpetuation problem. Chaufty said the other half is recruiting and retaining the best people to keep the business going.

The McEldowney McWilliams firm dates back to an agency founded in 1911 by Ed N. Semans. Ancel Earp, who became adjutant general of the Oklahoma National Guard at the age of 23, purchased the company in 1924.

The firm was known as Ancel Earp and Co. until 1959 when it merged with the McEldowney Gilliland Agency and became Ancel Earp, McEldowney Associates Inc. At that time it was one of the largest agencies in the Southwest. …

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