Allstate executives win votes overwhelmingly

By Becky Yerak 

Allstate Corp executives got 92 percent approval on the say-on-pay vote at their annual shareholders’ meeting on Tuesday, up from the 58 percent they received last year.


Also, Chief Executive Tom Wilson received almost 97 percent of the votes cast as he sought reelection, up from 69 percent last year.


As previously reported, Allstate has made several compensation and corporate governance changes to appease shareholders.


Allstate stock started the day trading at $33.20, up from around $31 at last year’s annual meeting.


But at least four shareholders expressed concerns at the shareholders’ meeting, which lasted about an hour at the home and auto insurer’s Northbrook headquarters.


Recently, Allstate stock has been outperforming its peers.


But one shareholder asked about an ugly chart in the annual report. It showed that $100 invested in Allstate stock on Dec. 31, 2006, would be worth $49 today, vs. $75 for Standard & Poor’s property and casualty group.


“This kind of performance is very sad,” he said.


That same shareholder, who said he would vote for all the board members, also took issue with the way in which Wilson introduced the board members as a group, not individually, at the same time he introduced management.


 Wilson assured him that the board acts independently. Wilson is the only company employee on the board.


Wilson said that Allstate’s stock might have been hit harder than other insurers in the S&P because, as the nation’s No. 2 home insurer, it has more exposure to the spate of catstrophes that have been hitting the county. 


Another shareholder complained about Allstate’s falling earnings per share.


“We’re paying management to price product properly,” the investor said.


Jim Fish, executive director of the National Association of Professional Allstate Agents, and his wife, Nancy, are worried about Allstate’s treatment of its agents, regarding everything from pay to their dwindling ranks to admitted errors made on compensation reports and tax forms.


During the meeting Wilson said that total agent compensation under a new agency program will be at the same level or higher than an existing program. He also said that, of 1,000 agencies that responded to a survey after attending a recent forum in Las Vegas, 92 percent felt satisfied or very satisfied with their relationship with the company.. Allstate had about 10,000 agents at the end of 2011.


Nancy Fish said Allstate has been trying to trim agent ranks by more than 25 percent, with as many as 4,000 agents fired. She estimates that Allstate will be down to 9,000 agents next year.


Wilson disputed her statements and said there are no specific goals for agency numbers. “We do have performance standards around agencies,” he said.


He noted that Allstate has loaned $250 million for people to buy agencies, proof of its confidence in the agency model.


Jim Fish also said that, although Allstate has made some compensation and governance changes, Wilson still got a 20 percent raise to $11.2 million even though Allstate’s stock closed down in 2011.


Wilson referred him to the proxy and  encouraged him to vote how he feels


Fish’s agent group has asked for an independent audit into how errors on compensation reports and tax forms occurred.


Wilson said the audit committee is looking into it.


 Shareholder Martin Glotzer asked Wilson about Facebook.


Wilson said “social media is a growing and important tool.”


In response to a question, Wilson said there have been no conversations about a “change in control” of the company.


Chicago’s Crown family, Baird team up for Chinese ‘fridge truck deal

By Becky Yerak 

Chicago’s billionaire Crown family and Baird Private Equity have teamed up to invest in a Chinese maker of refrigerated trucks, saying they expect rising income levels and greater food safety demands in the country to drive the need for such vehicles.

 The family is making the investment through CC Industries, its private equity arm, and one of the companies in its portfolio. CC’s holdings consist of businesses in the transportation and food processing equipment industries, including Chicago-based Great Dane a 110-year old manufacturer of refrigerated trailers and truck bodies.

 Terms weren’t disclosed.

Founded in 1993, Henan Bingxiong Refrigerated Truck Co., also called Ice Bear, will use the new capital from CC and Baird to expand plants in Henan and Shanghai.

 The companies said that, in China, most perishable foods are shipped by non-refrigerated trucks.  They cited estimates that 20 percent to 40 percent of food transported  there ends up getting spoiled.

 Rising income levels and higher food safety demands by both the Chinese government and Chinese consumers are expected to drive the need for refrigerated trucks, the companies said.

“Our leading market position in the refrigerated truck and trailer market will allow us to bring enormous resources to Ice Bear, and help them capitalize on the growing need for cold” transportation methods in China,” Great Dane Chief Executive Bill Crown said in a statement.

Brett Tucker, partner for Baird Capital Partners Asia, part of the private-equity unit of Milwaukee-based Robert W. Baird & Co., said his firm and Great Dane have spent three years looking for such opportunities in China.

As part of the deal, Dean Engelage, executive vice president of Great Dane, and Baird’s Tucker will join the Ice Bear board of directors.

 Twitter: @beckyyerak