George Joseph (West Virginia)
|Born||September 11, 1921
Beckley, West Virginia
|Education||B.A. Harvard University|
|Known for||founder of Mercury Insurance Group|
|Net worth||US$ 1.15 billion (March 2013)|
Early life and education
Joseph was born in Beckley, West Virginia, in 1921, the son of Lebanese immigrants. His father worked as a coal miner and as a storekeeper. He served as a B-17 navigator in World War II, serving in some 50 missions. In 1949, he earned a degree in Physics and Mathematics from Harvard University in 3 years (on the GI Bill).
After he graduated, he took a job with the Occidental Life Insurance Company in Los Angeles as a systems analyst. In the evenings, he sold life insurance door-to-door. Noting that many of his customers would inquire about other lines of insurance (auto, property) in addition to life, Joseph proposed that Occidental expand its offerings. After being rebuffed in 1954, he left Occidental and started his own insurance agency in California which bundled the life insurance policies he was already selling with property/casualty insurance and Automobile insurance policies. At the time, the automobile insurance industry was not flexible with all drivers paying the same rate regardless of their driving record or experience. Noting this, Joseph founded Mercury Insurance in 1962. Mercury offered auto insurance policies with differing rates based on a drivers record and experience, a first in the industry. Now in its fiftieth year, Mercury employs 4,000 agents and has $4 billion in assets. Joseph remains actively involved in the operations of Mercury Insurance as the Chairman of the Board, however the CEO of the company is now Gabe Tirador.
Personal life and political activities
Joseph was active in the opposition to California Proposition 103 which regulated providers of insurance to individuals in California. Proposition 103 requires insurance carriers to file rates and receive prior approval before using the rates, and required all insurance carriers to roll back rates 20%. Joseph fought to repeal parts of this law in 1993 based on the grounds that the law promoted increased litigation in the insurance industry and that the law restricted competitive actions by insurance carriers.
In 2006 Joseph was listed with a net worth of $1 billion on the Forbes 400.
- Forbes: The World's Billionaires - George Joseph March 2013
- Mercury Insurance website: "George Joseph: Portrait of the American Dream" retrieved August 11, 2013