Column: Roger's Soapbox

Best Party I’ll Never Have

By: | December 14, 2015

Roger Crombie is a United Kingdom-based columnist for Risk & Insurance®. He can be reached at [email protected].

I was once asked whom, dead or alive, I would like to invite to a dinner party. That led me to ask a similar question: Whom would I invite to an insurance dinner? I’ll give you nine names, selected on purely personal grounds.

I’d have a different group round the following week.

The first crew would be largely men, because insurance was, until recently — about last Thursday, really — a man’s game.

Hank Greenberg would have to be there. I’ve never changed my view that he was the best of breed among those who built the modern insurance industry. I’m not sufficiently familiar with the Europeans who created the giant insurers and reinsurers, but Greenberg’s story has more drama than Macbeth’s. I met Greenberg a few times, and I’d like to see him again.

I’d invite my broker. It’s the only way I could get to see him. He’s a very busy broker.

Someone I knew better was Ken LeStrange, the founder of Endurance Specialty Holdings. We smoked cigarettes outside neighboring buildings in Bermuda, and became friends as a result. We stayed friends even after he stopped smoking. The man had no side — what he thought was what you got.

Fiona Luck held several executive positions at XL. She was charming, smart as a whip, but utterly approachable. She shadowed Brian O’Hara for a while in the early going. Her contribution to XL was significant, and underestimated.

I’d have O’Hara join us because he was a stand-up guy who built XL more or less from the ground up. He was a risk-taker, to an unusual degree at that level. Not all of his bets panned out, but it’s better to have invested and lost than never to have invested at all.

Michael Butt, OBE, is always excellent company, and he built excellent companies, too. Eagle Star, Mid-Ocean, his time at XL, AXIS … Butt is the very definition of a great conversationalist, so he could sit next to Edward Lloyd, founder of Lloyd’s.

It would be a bad idea to meet Lloyd at a coffee shop. He’d be surprised to see regular people there. He’d be stunned to see women present. He’d have a heart murmur when he looked at their clothing. He’d suffer shortness of breath if anyone referred to a Frappuccino as “coffee.” He’d die if he saw what one cost; in his day, five bucks was a year’s salary.

I’d invite my broker. It’s the only way I could get to see him. He’s a very busy broker. To liven things up, I’d have Mariah Carey join us. She is relevant because, according to an internet source I don’t trust, she’s insured her bottom for a billion dollars. (Edward Lloyd just rolled over in his grave.) None of my other guests carried that kind of cover on themselves.

Another insured who might join us is Keith Richards of the Rolling Stones. He had his middle finger insured for $1.6 million. For strumming his guitar, of course. What were you thinking?

For the non-insurance dinner, after years of thought, I can name nine guests: Groucho Marx, Dorothy Parker, an L.A. musician called Lowell George, the singer and composer Rickie Lee Jones, and W.G. Grace, a cricketer. Albert Einstein could bring potato salad. The publisher Bennet Cerf, the person I’d most like to have been if I couldn’t have been me, and the poet Ogden Nash. And Mariah Carey.

We’d probably end up talking about insurance.


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