Tuesday, October 23, 2018


Business Briefs 03/08/18

  • Hess-Chris-031118


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Goodwill NCW tabs president/​CEO

MENASHA — Chris Hess, vice president of market development and sales for ThedaCare, has been named president and CEO of Goodwill Industries of North Central Wisconsin.

Hess, 37, replaces Bob Pedersen, who retired at the end of 2017 after 26 years at Goodwill NCW. Hess will begin his new job on March 26. Hess joins a nonprofit human-services organization that employs more than 1,200 people statewide. It has locations in Eau Claire, Menomonie, Lake Hallie and Rice Lake.

Hess is a graduate of St. Norbert College and earned his master’s degree in business administration from UW-Oshkosh.

Record claims for American Family

MADISON — Damage claims from severe weather battered American Family Insurance Group’s coffers at a record-high level last year, but the insurer still pulled out a profit in 2017 thanks to investment gains and new policy purchasers.

American Family reported net income of $155.6 million for 2017, just under half of its earnings of $325.6 million in 2016.

“It was a busy year for American Family,” said Jack Salzwedel, chairman and CEO.

Storm losses hit an all-time high of $1.5 billion for American Family in 2017, up from $883 million in 2016.

“We plan for storm claims, but we exceeded that number by about $400 million or so,” chief financial officer Dan Kelly said.

A storm last June that hit parts of Wisconsin and Minnesota with strong winds and hail resulted in $362 million in damage claims — the largest single weather-connected loss in 2017.

American Family Mutual Insurance — which writes 80 percent of the group’s premiums and serves customers in 19 states — did not face claims from the devastating hurricanes of 2017, the second most destructive hurricane year on record, with an estimated $200 billion in damage from Hurricanes Harvey, Irma and Maria in Texas, Florida and Puerto Rico.

But two of its subsidiary insurance companies — Homesite, a direct homeowners insurance business based in Boston, and The General, a direct non-standard auto insurance provider based in Nashville — did have hurricane-related claims totaling $20 million. Homesite was affected even more by the wildfires in California, resulting in $60 million worth of claims for damage there.

Discovery finishes $12B takeover

Discovery Communications on Tuesday completed its merger with Scripps Networks Interactive and assumed control of the Scripps television channels HGTV, Food Network and Travel Channel.

The nearly $12-billion purchase was designed to give Silver Spring, Md.-based Discovery more leverage with pay-TV operators such as DirecTV and Charter Communications’ Spectrum. It also should boost Discovery’s appeal among women who consider HGTV and Food Network must-have channels. Discovery’s channels primarily draw men.

“We are adding brands that people love and are passionate about,” said David Zaslav, Discovery’s chief executive.

The merger, which was first unveiled last July, comes amid increasing consolidation and competition. Netflix, Amazon.com and Apple are spending billions of dollars to challenge traditional broadcasters by creating high-quality scripted shows. But Discovery has long churned out unscripted fare — shows about animals, nature and survival. Its legacy channels include Discovery, Animal Planet, TLC and ID.

“We are different from everyone else, and that gives us an advantage,” Zaslav said.

From staff reports, news services

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