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MELDING OF AON, A&A RAISES QUESTIONS

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LONDON-The London market is watching to see who will stay and who will go after the recent completion of Aon Group Inc.'s bid for Alexander & Alexander Services Inc.

Indeed, just about every industry conversation includes some speculation about the structure of the new London-based operations.

A shakeup is likely in London as Aon attempts to bring together the operations of its original London broker, Nicholson Jenner Leslie Group Ltd., with recently acquired Bain Hogg Group P.L.C. and A&A's London-based Alex-ander Howden Group Ltd., said stock analyst Julianne Jessup of UBS Ltd. in London, voicing publicly what many in the market have said in private.

"There is a clear pecking order among these three, with Bain Hogg emphatically at the bottom and Alexander Howden, by size and market share, at the top," she said.

Both Nicholson Leslie and Howden are accustomed to being "the London jewels in the respective crowns of their U.S. parents," Ms. Jessup noted. However, their specialist teams overlap, particularly in reinsurance, aviation and energy, which could lead to people leaving and joining other brokerages or layoffs.

"Meanwhile, Bain Hogg, as a smaller and weaker player in al See Aon on next pagAon

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most all areas, looks set to become the sacrificial lamb as its new bedfellows begin maneuvering for position."

Just after the merger was announced in December 1996, Ron W. Forrest, former chairman and chief executive officer of Bain Hogg and a more than 30-year veteran of A&A, was named chairman and CEO of retail brokerage unit Aon Risk Services Inc.

Since then, however, there has been no word on who will head Aon's numerous London operations. Until now, Alan Colls has remained at the helm of Aon's London operations even as Aon bought Frank B. Hall & Cos. Inc., merged London-based Leslie & Godwin Ltd. into the group and bought London-based energy specialist Jenner Fenton Slade Ltd.

NJL Chairman Mr. Colls headed the formation of Nicholson Chamberlain Colls Ltd. in 1988 by more than 100 people, many of whom left Stewart Wrightson Group P.L.C. after it merged with what was then Willis Faber P.L.C. and now is Willis Corroon Group P.L.C. Aon, which had a 47% stake in NCC, acquired full ownership in 1993 (BI, March 8, 1993).

Mr. Colls said last week it was too soon to comment on any changes to the structure or personnel of the new group.

However, Michael D. O'Halleran, president of Aon Group Inc. in Chicago, who is in charge of merging the operations, said the integration is "going extremely well."

"We're moving along in all areas as quickly as practical. Logistics and timing are the keys to how quickly we move," he said.

Few people within Howden, Nicholson Leslie and Bain Hogg seem to know what the new structure will be. But what is certain is that Aon Chairman and Chief Executive Officer Patrick Ryan is taking a personal interest. The day after the merger of A&A was announced, just before Christmas, Mr. Ryan flew to London and spoke to senior Howden executives, particularly Deputy Chairman Dennis Mahoney. Meetings have continued between Aon personnel in Chicago and London to sort out a structure. Mr. O'Halleran will be in London this week.

In its first move toward integration, Aon announced last week the merger of Aon's existing London-based employee benefit consulting company, Godwins Ltd., with A&A's Alexander Clay. The two companies in due course will trade under the name "Aon Consulting Ltd.," signaling what many observers expect-that the name "Aon" will come out on top no matter what the structure.

Joint task forces are being formed to manage the integration of Godwins and Alexander Clay, announced Hunter Devine, chairman of Godwins, and Ron Amy, chairman and CEO of Alexander Clay.

Merging those two operations was "fairly uncomplicated" in terms of the number of people involved, whereas merging the much larger London operations will be more cumbersome, Mr. O'Halleran said.

Meanwhile, although operators at A&A's U.K. retail operations are already answering the phone, "Aon Alexander," Mr. O'Halleran said that is only an interim name.

Sally Roberts contributed to this story.