Hardman & Howell acquired by insurance brokerage giant

01/03/2013 12:00 AM

01/02/2013 11:42 PM

Gary Hardman expects the firm he founded 35 years ago to grow significantly in the next year after completing the sale of Hardman & Howell Benefits to Arthur J. Gallagher & Co. on Monday.

Insurance brokerage giant Gallagher announced Wednesday that it had acquired Hardman & Howell, which has 13 employees.

In an interview Wednesday afternoon, Hardman and Mike Howell said the deal allows their firm to offer products and services and other intangibles that they couldn’t have on their own.

“I’ll be surprised if within 12 months we don’t have 50 percent more employees,” said Hardman, who adds that Gallagher’s aim is to grow the business it has acquired from his firm.

Hardman and Howell have become employees of Gallagher and plan to remain with the company.

Both men declined to disclose financial terms of the acquisition.

Hardman founded the benefits consulting firm in 1977. In 2011 Hardman formalized a longtime partnership with Mike Howell that created Hardman & Howell.

The company, at 8110 E. 32nd St. North, provides employee benefits consulting to companies in areas such as group health insurance, flexible spending accounts, life insurance and short- and long-term disability. It has traditionally targeted serving companies with between 25 and 2,500 employees. Now that it’s part of a much larger company, that target will likely change, Howell said.

“In all reality that probably changes,” Howell said. “(Gallagher has) the expertise and backroom (operations) to deal with large clients. It opens up the door for us.”

Hardman said he and Howell were approached by Gallagher last year about selling their firm.

“And we said, ‘Yeah, we’ll talk,’ ” Hardman said. “As we started to get exposed to the Gallagher way … we made a decision to pursue it more.”

Hardman said that with the implementation of the new federal health care law, his firm would have to add “a lot more tools and services and staff … just to advise our clients.” The Gallagher deal gives them those resources.

He also visited with other employee benefits consulting firms that had been acquired by Gallagher before he agreed to a deal with them.

“The one thing that was important to me was the partners don’t leave after their employment agreement is up with Gallagher,” Hardman said. “They embrace the partners because they (the partners) have the entrepreneurial spirit” that Gallagher needs to grow its business.

Also high on Hardman’s list of must-haves was that Gallagher would take care of Hardman & Howell’s clients. “That was the first thing we had on the list,” Hardman said.

“HHB is a wonderful example of how we continue to find outstanding merger partners that will help us expand our operations, geographic presence and consulting expertise,” J. Patrick Gallagher, chairman and CEO of Arthur J. Gallagher, said in a news release.

Gallagher, based in Itasca, Ill., is a publicly traded company with operations in 18 countries. It offers insurance brokerage, employees benefits consulting and human resources consulting. In the third quarter of 2012, the company had $619 million in revenue.

The company’s closest operations to Wichita are in Oklahoma City and Kansas City, Mo.

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