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Thinking ahead sparked XL, Catlin CEOs' merger conversation

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NEW YORK — The $4.1 billion merger of XL Group P.L.C. and Catlin Group Ltd., which was concluded May, was born of a single question asked almost three years ago.

Speaking to Business Insurance on the sidelines of the 2015 Brokerslink Conference in New York on Friday, Stephen Catlin said that while in Brussels, he asked XL CEO Mike McGavick, “What do you think is going to happen to the industry, Mike?”

“It's going to consolidate,” responded Mr. McGavick, according to Mr. Catlin, who then followed up by asking when the industry would consolidate.

“In two to five years,” answered Mr. McGavick, who then asked Mr. Catlin what he thought.

Mr. Catlin responded that he likely would have answered in “identical fashion,” and the two agreed to speak further.

On the flight back to London from Brussels, the two “explored the subject matter more carefully on the plane,” said Mr. Catlin, “and came to the conclusion we were both thinking down the same line.”

“At the end of that conversation, I said, 'Mike, in light of this conversation, is there any merit in us having a conversation?' ”

To which Mr. McGavick replied, “Stephen, I have a list, but you're not on it,” because “I didn't think you'd ever contemplate it.”

Mr. Catlin reasoned that if consolidation were inevitable, a company should decide its own fate.

“So, if it's going to happen, why wouldn't you get out on the front foot, be proactive and choose your partner?” Mr. Catlin asked rhetorically. “And that's essentially what happened.”

Mr. Catlin went on to say that he believed that consolidation will continue and pointed to the recent spate of deals in the insurance sector.

“There will be further mergers and acquisitions, and we've seen a lot of mergers and acquisitions since we first leaked in December last year that we were doing the transaction. It's been unprecedented,” he said.