Willis/Marsh? A Firm ‘No Comment,’ But Rumors Persist

January 22, 2008

The rumors, and at this point that’s all they are, apparently started with a brief report on CNBC that Willis Group Holdings had expressed interest in acquiring Marsh, Inc. from MMC.

Is there any truth in it? “No comment,” said Jason Groves, head of media at Marsh’s London office. His response echoes MMC and Willis senior management, who have refused any commentary on the rumor.

Despite those statements a number of people in London’s insurance community have indicated they believe that “where there’s smoke there’s fire.” Two senior Willis executives are said to have flown from London to Florida to meet with their opposite numbers at Marsh. MMC’s recent decision to separate Marsh into an international group and a US/Canada Group has fueled speculation that the international division may be on the block. If so, Willis would seem to be a logical candidate.

With most large multi-national groups more or less settled in with their particular insurance brokers, competition for new business is mainly centered on small to medium sized companies, Groves explained. In this field Marsh competes not only with Aon, Willis, Gallagher and other major brokers, but also with local and regional brokers, many of whom continue to accept contingent commissions.

Competition for business, perhaps coupled with Marsh’s recent management changes, might make a sale of at least the international part of Marsh a viable option. For the moment, however, there appears to be nothing concrete as far as the rumors are concerned.

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