Aon makes $30bn approach to buy Willis Towers Watson

Two global insurance brokerage concerns, both very active in the superyacht market, may join forces as the result of a $30bn takeover approach by Aon to buy Willis Towers Watson. If the deal is completed, it would see the world’s second and third largest insurance brokerage business coming together to take the number one slot from the current leader, Marsh & McLennan.

Aon is a New York-listed insurance and investment group and its offer is an all-share merger approach which, if completed, would create an insurance brokerage market leader valued at some $80bn. This approach is perhaps not surprising, as the two businesses held discussions last year which collapsed.

Aon CEO, Greg Case, said: “This combination will create a more innovative platform capable of delivering better outcomes for all stakeholders, including clients, colleagues, partners and investors. Our world-class expertise across risk, retirement and health will accelerate the creation of new solutions that more efficiently match capital with unmet client needs in high-growth areas like cyber, delegated investments, intellectual property, climate risk and health solutions.”

While New York-listed, Aon is headquartered in London. If the deal achieves the necessary regulatory approvals, the plan is that the combined group would have Aon CEO Greg Case and CFO Christa Davies heading up the operation along with Willis CEO John Harley as executive chairman.

Both groups have a significant involvement in the international superyacht insurance market and this deal, if it succeeds, will bring a degree of consolidation after a turbulent period in the market over the last two or three years in which rates have risen by around one third.

Ironically, Aon recently appointed a new head of its global superyacht insurance activities, namely Emma Carpenter, taken from Willis Tower Watson, and made global superyacht leader based in London.

Lee Meyrick, CEO of Aon global marine operations, commented: “Our yacht business forms a key part of Aon’s marine offering, and, we see significant potential for growth in this area. Emma brings a strong 17-year track record of delivering for clients in the yacht market and is highly-regarded in the industry.”

Carpenter has been working in the marine side of insurance for 17 years and for much of that time superyacht business has accounted for most, if not all of what she had done. She joined Aon in early March and her remit is to drive the development of Aon’s superyacht insurance broking activity globally.

At Willis Towers Watson, Carpenter was active as a superyacht insurance broker for more than 10 years. Before that Carpenter worked in a similar role with Ed, formerly Cooper Gay, and before that she worked at British Marine as an underwriting assistant.