Our success over the past decades has not been the result of a single individual. It is the result of the combined efforts of a group of entrepreneurial leaders. Since our founding in 1929, these individuals have played a significant role in transforming what began as a railroad empire into the $22 billion diversified corporation we are today.
Click on the above timeline to learn more about Alleghany's history.
Otis & Mantis Van Sweringen
Otis and Mantis Van Sweringen shared one passion: business. Their first venture was in real estate building one of the largest upscale communities in the United States in their hometown of Cleveland. From there they entered the railroad business, acquiring a vast empire which included some of the biggest names at the time: the Nickel Plate, the Chesapeake & Ohio, the Erie, and the Pere Marquette.
1930: Alleghany acquires Missouri
By the time the brothers founded Alleghany, they had amassed five major railroad systems and controlled nearly one-fifth of the track mileage in the United States. The company began trading on the New York Stock Exchange under the single letter Y.
In the 1930s, the Great Depression battered Alleghany’s finances. By 1936, both Van Sweringen brothers had died and the company found new leadership in Robert Young and Allan Kirby, who purchased the company. Robert, who made his fortune on Wall Street, became Chairman. Allan, whose father co-founded the F.W. Woolworth Company, became Alleghany’s largest shareholder.
1947: Robert Young on the
cover of TIME.
Robert quickly focused on reducing debt and improving the bottom line. By 1940, Alleghany was profitable once more and Robert looked for new ways to grow. He seized an opportunity to expand the company's railroad holdings with a bid for the New York Central in 1946. A few years later, he diversified Alleghany by acquiring 91% of the voting stock in Investors Diversified Services (IDS), the world's largest mutual funds group. Under Robert’s management, Alleghany became a company with renewed financial strength.
While Robert Young was the public face of Alleghany, Allan Kirby was influential behind the scenes. When Robert died suddenly in 1957, Allan was the obvious choice to succeed him.
IDS Headquarters in Minneapolis.
Photo: Jim Winstead Jr.
As CEO, Allan believed IDS was a more valuable investment than the railroads, and began selling off these interests. During his tenure, the market value of Alleghany’s interest in IDS increased, and for the first time ever, the company began paying dividends.
F.M. Kirby II
Allan’s son, F. M. Kirby II, acquired his first company when he was 30. He sold that business for a profit six years later and went to work with his father as a Director at Alleghany. When he became CEO in 1967, F.M. brought new energy and vision to the company. His management philosophy, which called for a decentralized yet creative parent company structure, was key to the company’s expansion. With a small, highly-qualified management team, he set goals and provided incentives, then let subsidiaries run their own businesses.
1968: Alleghany buys Jones Motor Co.
Under F.M.’s 25 years of leadership, Alleghany grew steadily into an operating company with interests in finance, mining, transportation, steel production, and insurance.
When F.M. Kirby II stepped down as CEO in 1992, he recommended that John Burns, Alleghany’s President since 1977, succeed him as CEO. For the next 12 years, John looked for opportunities to further grow and strengthen Alleghany’s businesses. He oversaw the growth of Chicago Title and Trust into a leader in the title insurance industry, expanded Alleghany’s holding in industrial minerals by purchasing Celite Corporation, and re-established its presence in the railroad industry, acquiring a stake in the Santa Fe Pacific Corporation.
1998: Alleghany completes tax-free
spin-off of Chicago Title Corporation.
Photo: J. Crocker
It was John who articulated the management philosophy that still guides Alleghany today: “Shun investment fads and fashions in favor of investing in basic financial and industrial enterprises that offer long-term value to the investor.”
In 2002, John Burns recruited Weston Hicks, CFO of The Chubb Corporation, to join Alleghany. Weston had extensive experience in the insurance industry, which made him a perfect candidate to execute Alleghany's objective of focusing on the ownership and management of a small group of operating businesses and investments, anchored by a core position in property and casualty insurance. Under Weston's direction in 2003, Alleghany acquired RSUI, a specialty wholesale underwriting agency, and transformed it into an integrated insurance company which has produced almost $1 billion in underwriting profits. In 2003, Weston oversaw the establishment of Darwin Professional Underwriters, a specialty property and casualty insurance company. Darwin experienced tremendous growth and had a successful initial public offering in 2006. In March 2012, Weston oversaw the acquisition of Transatlantic Re, a leading international reinsurance organization.
2003: Alleghany acquires RSUI.
Weston directed the establishment in 2007 of Alleghany Capital Partners, LLC, an investment group that manages the company’s public equity portfolio and makes private investments in high-potential companies. Today, Alleghany is an operating company with approximately $22 billion in assets and ample resources to provide ongoing long-term capital support for prospective acquisitions and investments.