Stewart Information Services Corp. is closing out a banner year for acquisitions by scooping up the largest title agency in Illinois, Chicago-based Greater Illinois Title Co.
The smallest of the big four title insurers, Stewart announced last week it was acquiring one of the largest title agencies in Michigan, Devon Title Agency. Stewart also acquired Seattle-based Rainier Title in November, and Westerville, Ohio-based Title First Agency Inc. in July.
By acquiring Greater Illinois Title and subsidiaries with operations in 23 states, Stewart is taking market share away from rivals Fidelity National Financial and Old Republic Title Insurance, the first- and third-biggest title insurance underwriters. Greater Illinois Title and its subsidiaries had offered title insurance polices underwritten by Fidelity subsidiary Chicago Title Insurance Co., and Old Republic National Title Insurance Co.
Title insurer market share, by premiums written
Acquiring Greater Illinois Title demonstrates Stewart’s “commitment to investing and gaining scale in attractive markets in order to provide best-in-class products and services to our customers,” said Stewart Group President Steve Lessack in a statement. Terms of the deal were not disclosed.
Greater Illinois Title President Greg Kosin said he and his partner, Chuck Papp, believe that the company’s customers, current management team, and employees will all “benefit from having access to the broader Stewart family of companies.”
Greater Illinois Title’s subsidiaries include Greater Florida Title Services, Greater Indiana Title Company, Greater Wisconsin Title Company, GIT Michigan Title Services, Greater Missouri Title and Greater Illinois Title Company.
In addition, Greater Illinois Title’s National Title Services Group does business in Arizona, Colorado, Georgia, Kansas, Minnesota, Mississippi, Montana, Nebraska, New Jersey, New York, North Carolina, North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Tennessee, and West Virginia.
The Stewart family of title insurance underwriters, which include Stewart Title Guaranty and Stewart Title Limited, posted the highest rate of annual growth among the big four title insurers during the third quarter, with premiums written growing by 52 percent to $641 million.
As it’s been growing its market share in the title insurance business, Stewart has also been buying up companies that provide ancillary services like appraisal management, search and valuation, and online notarization and closing solutions.
Last year, as part of CEO Fred Eppinger’s vision of building an end-to-end real estate services and technology platform, Stewart acquired United States Appraisals, Pro-Teck Services Ltd., and NotaryCam.
Stewart’s ancillary services buying spree continued this year with the acquisition of Signature Closers in February, digital mortgage origination platform Cloudvirga in May, a $192 million deal to acquire data and analytics provider Informative Research which closed in September, and Stewart’s $175 million acquisition of property data aggregator PropStream in November.
On a third quarter earnings call with investment analysts, Eppinger said that going forward, the company can be more selective about the ancillary businesses it acquires. On the title insurance side, he said Stewart will continue to target acquisitions to fill in gaps by geographic region.
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