Goldman Sachs-backed Aston Lark bought by Howden

By Ellie Donnelly Twitter Email

ASTON Lark, the UK-based chartered insurance broker backed by Goldman Sachs, has been acquired by Howden, an international insurance broking group.

The company is purchasing Aston Lark from Goldman Sachs Asset Management and Bowmark Capital for a reported £1.1bn (€1.3bn).

In Ireland, Aston Lark has been on an acquisition spree, having bought 10 brokerage firms here since it launched here last year – including seven so far this year.

Last month Robert Kennedy, its CEO for Ireland, said the company is planning further acquisitions here.

The growth strategy of the business will remain the same and it will continue to acquire “like-minded brokers in Ireland,” a spokesperson for Aston Lark Ireland said.

In addition, there will no changes to the Irish management team.

The “highly complementary union” completes Howden’s UK broking business, with Aston Lark joining specialist insurance distribution firm A-Plan Group and Howden UK to create a full-service broker, according to a statement from Howden.

The transaction is Howden’s largest acquisition to-date and creates a UK business managing over £6bn (€7bn) of gross written premium for more than 1.7 million policyholders who are served by over 5,000 employees from 160 locations in the UK and Ireland.

Aston Lark places over £1bn of gross written premiums for 200,000 clients.

Peter Blanc, group CEO of Aston Lark, said: “I’ve always been determined to make sure that the business we have been building in Aston Lark finds its forever home and I’m absolutely delighted to have done that through Howden.”

“Together we will be the major force in the UK broking market and I’m extremely excited about what we can achieve over the coming years.”

Upon completion of the deal, Aston Lark CEO Peter Blanc will become executive chairman of Howden’s UK retail broking operations, while current A-Plan CEO, Carl Shuker will be appointed CEO of the new platform.

Andy Bragoli, CEO of Howden UK, will lead Howden’s International Specialty business. The management team will report into Jose Manuel Gonzalez, chief executive, Howden Broking Group.

Goldman Sachs Investment Banking Division and Macquarie Capital served as financial advisers, and Latham & Watkins, LLP served as legal counsel to Goldman Sachs Asset Management, Bowmark Capital and Aston Lark.

The management team of Aston Lark were advised (on the sell side) by Eversheds Sutherland (International) LLP and PwC and (on the reinvestment side) by Jamieson Corporate Finance, DLA Piper and PwC.

Howden was supported by Weil, Gotshal and Manges LLP, Norton Rose Fulbright LLP, and PwC.

Last month Aston Lark purchased Deanspoint Insurance Brokers, which trades as Abbey Murphy Insurance, while in August it purchased brokers Brassington Insurance.

Brassington, a subsidiary of the ARB Group, is one of Ireland’s oldest insurance brokerages, having been founded by Arthur Rochelle-Brassington over 90 years ago.

The deal between Howden and Aston Lark is subject to regulatory approval.

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