Geico’s Illinois growth rate in 2013 outpaced other big insurers; nationally, gekko surpasses Allstate

The state of Illinois’ three biggest car insurers, all headquartered in the Land of Lincoln, saw their 2013 annual growth rates dwarfed by that of Geico. Also in 2013, Geico fulfilled earlier predictions that it would replace Northbrook-based Allstate as the nation’s second-biggest car insurer.

The Allstate headquarters sign on Sanders Road in Northbrook. (Tribune file)

The Allstate headquarters sign on Sanders Road in Northbrook. (Tribune file)

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Suburban Chicago bank on alert over taxi charges

One of the more mysterious stories that I did in 2014 was about the suburban Chicago bank who was cautioning customers about using their debit or credit cards in local taxis. Here is an earlier story that the Chicago Tribune did too.

A crowd in the Loop surrounds a Checker taxi after it was overturned March 17, 1937, in a bitter taxi strike. (Chicago Tribune) Back then, cabs probably didn't accept plastic.

A crowd in the Loop surrounds a Checker taxi after it was overturned March 17, 1937, in a bitter taxi strike. (Chicago Tribune) Back then, cabs probably didn’t accept plastic.

Chicago real estate investor Klaff: Jewel is a trophy; will Sears be another?

One of my favorite Chicago Tribune stories from 2014 was a profile of Chicago real estate investor Hersch Klaff. Klaff, a one-time Chicago Cubs bidder, was part of a group that had just bought the Jewel grocery chain, and he told me that he’d like Sears to be his “swan song.”

Hersch Klaff, who once bid for the Cubs, has been an investor in several of the nation's biggest retail deals, including one last year involving Jewel-Osco. (Heather Charles, Chicago Tribune 2013)

Hersch Klaff, who once bid for the Cubs, has been an investor in several of the nation’s biggest retail deals, including one last year involving Jewel-Osco. (Heather Charles, Chicago Tribune 2013)

Alternative mutual funds “on steroids” can be risky

Mutual funds are supposed to be relatively safe, but a subset known as leveraged funds can be riskier than most because they use complex and aggressive trading strategies. One retiree shared her story with the Chicago Tribune. It even affected her relationship with her sister. The end of my Tribune story includes a helpful explanation of how leverage funds work. Image

In 2012, Cecilia Kruczek, of Schaumburg, learned that a brokerage employee had lost $100,000 of her money in a leveraged, actively traded fund just when she needed the cash. Recently, the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority issued an investor alert about alternative or “alt” mutual funds, which use strategies that differ from the industry’s more typical buy-and-hold practice. (Terrence Antonio James, Chicago Tribune)

 

Cat saved by Fifth Third Bank “doing great”

Update for animal lovers: I just received a Christmas card from the woman who in 2012 adopted Boots, the cat saved by Fifth Third Bank:

“Boots is doing great. She is happy and healthy. She loves spending cold nights on the rug in front of the sun room’s gas stove. She loves my dog. She is a pure joy in my life. I feel as though I’ve known her since she was born.”

Boots the cat with the woman who adopted her in 2012

Boots the cat with the woman who adopted her in 2012

Joe Lieberman, ex-senator, named chairman of Chicago investment firm

I had a scoop in the Dec. 24 Chicago Tribune about Joe Lieberman, the former U.S. senator and 2000 vice presidential nominee, becoming chairman of a Chicago-based investment firm. I interviewed him, as well as some of the firm’s principals, for about 15 minutes over the phone on Monday. Lieberman, who is primarily living in New York these days, sounds exactly like he does on C-SPAN and the Sunday morning talk shows. I had to interrupt him a few times during the interview because I knew my time with him was limited and there were questions I had to squeeze in.

Joe Lieberman