J. Smith Lanier, a nearly 150-year-old insurance company headquartered in nearby West Point, Ga., is being sold to a New York company.
White Plains, N.Y.-based Marsh & McLennan Agency LLC said Friday it has entered an agreement to acquire J. Smith Lanier & Co. in a deal that should close in the first quarter of this year. No financial terms of the purchase were disclosed.
Marsh & McLennan said J. Smith Lanier will operate as its Southeast regional hub under the West Point firm’s existing CEO D. Gaines Lanier and Chief Operating Officer Gary Ivey. It will be known as J. Smith Lanier, a Marsh & McLennan Agency LLC company. All 600 employees of J. Smith Lanier, which reports annual sales of $130 million and has 21 offices in the Southeast, will retain their jobs.
Founded in 1868, J. Smith Lanier operates in Georgia, Alabama, Kentucky, Tennessee and Florida. It offers insurance, risk management, and employee benefits services and products to businesses and individuals across the United States.
Gaines Lanier will report to Marsh & McLennan Agency’s CEO David Eslick.
“The acquisition of J. Smith Lanier, one of the country’s preeminent middle market insurance agencies, is a terrific addition to MMA’s capabilities and geographic footprint,” Peter Zaffino, CEO of Marsh, said in a statement.
Marsh is the parent company of Marsh & McLennan Agency and also is a subsidiary itself of Marsh & McLennan Companies, a global publicly traded firm with $13 billion in annual revenues and 60,000 staffers. The conglomerate has its hands in insurance brokering, risk management, and consulting in the areas of management, talent, health, retirement and investment.
Shares of Marsh & McLennan Companies were trading at just under $68 per share Friday on the New York Stock Exchange. That’s less than $2 under the stock’s 52-week high of $69.77 per share.
“J. Smith Lanier is among the oldest and most highly-regarded agencies in the U.S.,” Eslick said in a statement. “Its focus on clients, distinguished leaders, and talented team make JSL a great fit with MMA.”
Said Gaines Lanier in a statement: “J. Smith Lanier has been delivering the expertise, advocacy, and results our clients have depended on to help manage risk in their lives and businesses for nearly 150 years. As part of Marsh & McLennan Agency, we look forward to delivering additional solutions for our clients and providing new opportunities for our colleagues.”
J. Smith Lanier, the company, has a colorful history. The insurance and consulting firm dates to 1868 with the launch of a small banking and insurance business by brothers Ward Crocket Lanier and Lafayette Lanier. J. Smith Lanier, a telephone company executive, took the reins of the company around the Great Depression, with his daughter, Edith Lanier Wickham, helping run the company until selling it to J. Smith Lanier II in 1973.
The name of the company was changed from Lanier Insurance Agency to J. Smith Lanier & Co. in 1983.
J. Smith Lanier II ran the company until passing away in December 2013 at age 85. He was chairman emeritus at the time. The late Lanier was a prolific entrepreneur, helping launch a number of firms — including ITC Holding Co. and Powertel, the cellular phone business bought out by T-Mobile’s parent company.
His nephew, Gaines Lanier, became chief executive officer n 1999 and then chairman of the board in 2005.
Insurance firms J. Smith Lanier & Co. of West Point, Ga., and The Flowers Agency of Columbus merged their Columbus offices in 2015, consolidating their operations to the Brookstone Centre office park.