generations of Gleasons have sold
insurance, accepted an acquisition
offer from A.J. Gallagher in 2010 after
a 22-year courtship. The deal closed
in early 2011.
In 1910, Gus Gleason—the
grandfather of the brothers currently
running the agency—began selling
life insurance door to door in Dubois,
Pa. A few years later, Gleason also
began selling workers’ compensation
insurance for Pennsylvania
Manufacturers’ Assn. Casualty
Insurance Co., the predecessor of
an insurer that merged with Old
Republic International Corp. in 2010.
“THERE ARE TOWNS EVERYWHERE WHERE THE TOP 100 BROKERS AND AGENCIES CAN’T DO BUSINESS … BUT THERE’S STILL A NEED FOR GOOD, SOUND INSURANCE PRACTICES IN EVERY TOWN IN AMERICA.” —Robert Gleason Jr., chairman and CEO, The Gleason Agency
Specialty Insurance & Reinsurance Ratings: A.M. Best: A / S&P: A / Fitch: A / Moody’s: A3
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Gallagher was an independent family
business. The company, where the
Gallagher family continues to hold
top management and other positions,
was founded by Arthur J. Gallagher in
Chicago in 1927.
Years earlier, Gallagher returned
from World War I to find that his
pre-war employer, a German-owned
insurer, had not survived. Gallagher, a
bookkeeper, landed a similar position
with Chicago’s then-largest insurance
But he realized that agents were
among those with the largest incomes
at the firm, so he moved into sales in
the early 1920s.
In October 1927, he felt unhappy
that he did not have the same deal as
other agents, so he opened his own
agency with a lone assistant.
Unlike some new, small agencies,
Gallagher focused on commercial
rather than personal lines business.
In addition, he advised clients how
they could cut insurance costs by
Nearly 20 years later, when
Gallagher’s three sons returned home
from World War II, the two older sons
joined the agency. The youngest son,
John, initially went into advertising,
but his brothers eventually persuaded
him to join them.
John’s son, J. Patrick Gallagher Jr.,
who has been president and CEO of
the brokerage since the 1990s, said
he realized as an adolescent that he
was “hooked” on the family business.
It was 1966—he was 14 and in
8th grade. His father had created
the brokerage’s summer college
internship program a year earlier. The
younger Gallagher also had grown
up hearing discussions about the
business at the family dinner table
and had worked around the office as
a file boy and runner.
“I didn’t know whether I’d be good
at (selling insurance), but I liked the
people,” said Gallagher, who turns 60
During the summers of 1971
and 1972, he participated in the
brokerage’s internship program; he
joined the company full time in 1974.
Gallagher noted that some siblings
and cousins also are in the business,
as are his three sons.
A few generations of other families
also have worked at the company,
which promotes “the feeling of family”
as part of its culture of “benevolent
nepotism,” Gallagher said.
But, “we don’t carry anybody,”
he stressed. “There have been some
Gallaghers who’ve come and gone,
and that’s okay.”
Those who remained earn their
place in the organization, he said.
“You won’t outwork the Gallaghers.
We may not be the smartest people in
the room all the time, but you won’t
Today, the company generates $2
billion in annual revenues and has a
market capitalization of about $3.6
The brokerage’s growth over the
past quarter-century has been fueled
in large measure by its ambitious
acquisition strategy. The Gleason
Agency of Johnstown, Pa., where four
PMA eventually transferred
Gleason to Johnstown. While selling
workers’ comp coverage, he opened
his own agency in 1924 to sell
personal lines insurance.
Gleason’s son, Robert, took over
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