Durham benefits firm Hill, Chesson & Woody sold to Illinois firm

Hill, Chesson & Woody, a Durham benefits consultancy founded in 1971, was acquired for an undisclosed amount by 90-year-old Illinois-based benefits giant Arthur J. Gallagher & Co.

The companies announced the deal Monday and said it became effective Friday. The financial terms of the deal were not disclosed.

HCW, which has 83 employees and provides services to a wide range of North Carolina businesses, will continue to operate under its current name for one year until its brand is subsumed under the Gallagher banner on Jan. 1, 2018. HCW was the largest independent benefits consulting firm in the state that had not been swept up in an ongoing wave of industry consolidation, said CEO Todd Yates.

HCW laid off two employees and plans to eliminate three more positions in the coming 12 months, but the company is also filling four new positions in the first quarter, Yates said.

Gallagher, which has operations in 33 countries, had been courting HCW for about eight years. An essential component of the deal for HCW, Yates said, is giving HCW experts a key role in Gallagher’s Southeast operations. Meanwhile, Gallagher gains HCW’s benefits experts and HCW’s portfolio of clients.

HCW has about 350 North Carolina-based clients and specializes in designing, managing and implementing employee benefit programs. Gallagher, which has an office in Charlotte, is a national insurance brokerage and risk management services firm based in Itasca, Ill.

HCW was founded in 1971 as a life insurance brokerage, and later expanded to administering insurance services for North Carolina college students. The college business was sold to Blue Cross and Blue Shield several years ago. In addition to providing benefits consulting, a separate business within HCW sells life insurance to high-net worth individuals.

John Murawski: 919-829-8932, @johnmurawski