While the name doesn't tell you much about the business, Safeco does sound secure, and with insurance that counts for a lot. As Safeco Insurance Co., the company offers personal property/casualty insurance including auto, homeowners, and fire coverage. In addition to its bread and butter standard products, it also offers specialty products including classic car insurance, rental property insurance, and personal umbrella coverage. Its 4.8 million policies are sold and maintained nationally through a network of independent agents and brokers. Liberty Mutual acquired Safeco in a 2008 deal valued at $6.2 billion.
The deal gave Liberty Mutual a stronger presence in the western US and helped it build up its regional Agency Markets business. Liberty Mutual then took the Safeco brand national for its Agency Markets personal insurance business. What had been Safeco's regional commercial and surety business was transferred to other Agency Market businesses: Liberty Northwest and Liberty Mutual Surety. For most customers, the change was simply nominal as their agents did not change.
In the years leading up to the acquisition, Safeco pruned itself back into a strictly property/casualty insurer. Safeco's one-time ambition to join the chorus of multiline financial services institutions was thwarted by a series of underwriting losses. Trying to turn things around, the company reduced debt by selling Safeco Credit, its commercial credit and leasing subsidiary, to GE Capital, and it sold its life insurance and investments business to an investor group that includes White Mountains Insurance Group and Berkshire Hathaway. Safeco also sold its trust unit to asset manager Mellon Financial (now The Bank of New York Mellon), and its Talbot insurance brokerage to an investor group led by its executives.
To raise capital, in 2006 the company chose to sell off its landmark tower headquarters as well as an office campus in Redmond, Washington, and rent office space in downtown Seattle instead. To raise goodwill, in 2010 the company donated a large portion of its corporate collection of Northwestern art to an arts consortium in Washington State. – less