Goldman-backed broker buys Wright and eyes Irish push

Wexford’s Wright Insurance Brokers is being sold to a UK brokerage controlled in turn by global banking giant Goldman Sachs, which says it is already eyeing more Irish deals.

UK-based Aston Lark has agreed the deal to buy Wright Insurance Brokers, a specialist in the commercial and transport sectors, and which also offers specialised insurance solutions for private clients.

The deal is Aston Lark’s second in Ireland, following the acquisition of Robertson Low in January, and its first since the UK broker itself was bought by Goldman Sachs for £320m (€379m) in September.

It makes Wright Insurance Brokers the Wall Street giant’s first push into the sector here, although Goldman Sachs’ investment bank has had a presence in Ireland for decades, advising large corporations and the Government.

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Meanwhile, the US bank’s so-called distressed debt arm swept into Ireland after the financial crash and has since bought billions of euro worth of bad property and development loans from struggling banks. Commenting on the latest deal, Peter Blanc, CEO of Aston Lark, said the firm had been “hugely impressed by the business that Tony and Breda Wright have built”, and it was targeting more deals here.

He said: “We are keen to continue growing and acquiring like-minded brokers in Ireland where we see huge opportunities. Our increased scale will help us provide the full range of insurance and risk management solutions to companies and individuals seeking really high-quality personal service – which we believe will set us apart from the competition.”

Tony Wright, CEO of Wright Insurance Brokers, said the sale would mean the Irish business could offer a “highly personalised service company within a scaled, influential group, [providing] real benefits to our customers and staff”.

He added: “This, combined with the recent investment provided by Goldman Sachs and the quality and manner of the recent acquisitions, makes Aston Lark a very attractive platform to continue with the growth of the business.”

It is understood the Wrights will become investors in Aston Lark following the sale, and will continue their involvement in Patrona Underwriting. The family was advised by Dublin-based solicitors JR Sweeney LLP.

Wright Insurance is a profitable business. Its most recent accounts for the year to the end of May 2018 show an operating profit of €4.8m and revenues of €24.5m. The group paid a €2.3m dividend.

The Patrona wholesale insurance business was the agent in Ireland for Danish insurer Qudos, which had 50,000 customers here when it collapsed into liquidation at home in Denmark, leaving Irish motorists in the lurch.

However, Patrona was able to force Denmark’s insurance guarantee scheme to cover 1,570 outstanding claims here following the collapse.

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