While attending Harvard Business School, Bill Berkley and his partner formed Berkley Dean & Company – an investment management company that was the precursor to W. R. Berkley Corporation – with a $2,500 investment.
In the early 1970s, the company entered various aspects of the insurance business and debuted as a public company.
In 1972, the company entered the insurance market through the acquisition of Houston General Insurance Company. In 1973, the Union Insurance Company was organized in Nebraska, while Traders & General Insurance Company was acquired.
The company went public as W.R. Berkley Corporation on October 19, 1973, just hours before the Arab Oil Embargo was announced and later sold Traders & General Insurance Company while organizing Tri-State Insurance Company of Minnesota and acquiring Union Standard Insurance Company.
From the mid to late 1970s, the company marked three important milestones. In 1975, W. R. Berkley Corporation instituted a policy of paying a regular cash dividend.
That same year, the company entered the reinsurance market by organizing Signet Reinsurance Company and acquiring Reinsurance Underwriters Corporation.
In 1979, the company entered the specialty insurance market through the purchase of Admiral Insurance Company.
Through the early 1980s, the company continued to grow its regional, specialty and reinsurance businesses, and added an insurance service provider to its portfolio of companies.
In 1982, W. R. Berkley Corporation acquired Firemen’s Insurance Company of Washington, D.C., and later the hard market in 1985 and 1986 provided several opportunities to expand.
In 1985, Carolina Casualty Insurance Company was acquired, Firemen’s Habitational Division was established to write coverages for high-end real estate in the northeast, Facultative ReSources was formed to write casualty facultative reinsurance, and Nautilus Insurance Company was formed to write smaller excess and surplus lines risks.
Regional operations expanded in 1986 with the acquisition of Continental Western Insurance Company, and Clermont Specialty Managers was formed from the Firemen’s Habitational Division. The company also entered the risk management and administration services sector by forming Berkley Risk Administrators Company.
By 1987, the company’s total assets surpassed the $1 billion mark, total revenues exceeded the half-billion dollar level, and net worth rose above the one-quarter billion-dollar mark.
In the early 1990s, the company continued to grow through both acquisition and the formation of new companies.
It entered the directors’ and officers’ liability insurance business with the formation of Monitor Liability Managers. Acadia Insurance Company in Maine, Chesapeake Insurance Division of Firemen’s Insurance in Virginia, and Great River Insurance Company in Mississippi were all established to further expand the regional business.
The year 1994 marked additional milestones for W. R. Berkley Corporation. To bolster the services segment capabilities and add critical care capabilities, Key Risk Management Services was acquired.
The company also expanded overseas, through the purchase of 80% of Independencia Insurance Company of Argentina.
Revenues passed the $1 billion mark in 1995 as the company continued to expand. Presque Isle, Berkley Surety Group, and Berkley Insurance Company of the Carolinas were all established, as was Vela Insurance Services, which writes contractor and liability coverage on an excess and surplus lines basis.
New acquisitions included Midwest Employers Casualty Company and a controlling interest in La Union Gremail de Seguros S.A. in Argentina.
At the turn of the century, the company refined its strategy. The regional companies were consolidated to reduce costs, enhance size and scale, and to provide better competitive positions, while maintaining operations close to the customer. This segment was also repositioned to emphasize commercial lines of business and targeted niches, while withdrawing from personal lines.
The company’s reinsurance segment withdrew from commodity-type reinsurance, such as pro-rata and property lines, to focus on specialty businesses.
It also formed Preferred Employers Insurance Company, which provides workers’ compensation coverage for small employers in California.
The company reached a major milestone in 2001 when it moved the listing of W. R. Berkley Corporation common stock to the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE).
In 2001, the company entered into the medical malpractice market with the formation of Berkley Medical Excess Underwriters.
Newly formed companies during these years included Berkley Underwriting Partners, Berkley Technology Services, Admiral Excess Underwriters, B F Re Underwriters to underwrite casualty facultative reinsurance on a direct basis, Berkley Risk Solutions to provide insurance and reinsurance financial solutions to insurance companies and self-insured entities, and W. R. Berkley Insurance (Europe) Limited to write U.K. casualty risks.
In April 2004, W. R. Berkley Corporation joined the ranks of the Fortune 500 with $3.6 billion in revenue and $1.7 billion in stockholders’ equity at year-end 2003.
Berkley Specialty Underwriting Managers was formed and the renewal rights to a specialty casualty book of business were acquired in 2004.
In 2005, the company formed Berkley Accident & Health, Berkley Aviation, Berkley Net Underwriters, Berkley Regional Specialty Insurance Company, and Watch Hill Fac Management. The company also further expanded overseas operations by forming Berkley Insurance Company Hong Kong Reinsurance Division, Berkley International do Brasil Seguros S. A., and W. R. Berkley Insurance (Europe), Limited, Sucursal en Espana.
In 2007, W. R. Berkley Corporation was named Best Managed Insurance Company by Forbes Magazine and set a new record during our 40th Anniversary year by earning $744 million. Total assets surpassed $16.8 billion, total revenues exceeded $5.5 billion and net worth reached $3.7 billion.
Berkley Life Sciences, Berkley Select and Berkley Re Australia were all formed in 2007, and the American Mining Insurance Company was acquired in the same year.
In recent years, the company has continued to expand at an impressive pace, primarily through the creation of new businesses. In 2008, Berkley Asset Protection Underwriters, FinSecure, Berkley Canada, Berkley Professional Liability and Berkley Offshore Underwriting Managers were all formed.
2009 saw the creation of Admiral Professional Programs, Berkley Agribusiness Risk Specialists, Gemini Transportation Underwriters, W. R. Berkley Syndicate 1967 at Lloyds, Berkley North Pacific Group and Berkley Oil & Gas Specialty Services.
Verus Underwriting Managers was formed in 2010, and Berkley Re UK Limited and Berkley Technology Underwriters were both created in 2011.
Berkley Public Entity Managers and Berkley Custom Insurance Managers were formed in 2012 and finally, Berkley Southeast Insurance Group, Berkley Fire & Marine Underwriters and Berkley Design Professional Underwriters were all formed in 2013.
In 2015, the company announced that William R. Berkley would become executive chairman on October 31, 2015 and W. Robert Berkley, Jr. would assume the role of chief executive officer, continuing the transition plan implemented by the Board of Directors when Rob Berkley was named president and chief operating officer in 2009.
Berkley International Seguros Colombia, Berkley Construction Professional Liability Underwriters, and Berkley Global Product Recall Management were all formed in 2015.
In 2016, the company announced its entry into the high net worth personal lines market with Berkley One. It also formed Berkley Insurance Asia, Berkley Transactional, Berkley Cyber Risk Solutions and Intrepid Direct..
On April 17, 2017 the Company will mark its 50th anniversary, having ended 2016 with $7.7 billion in total revenue, more than $23 billion in total assets and $5 billion in stockholders' equity.