150, plus 10; Hanover celebrates after tough decade.

Position:BUSINESS
 
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Byline: Priyanka Dayal

WORCESTER - The Hanover Insurance Group Inc., one of Worcester's best-known corporate citizens, is celebrating its 160th anniversary this year.

It might seem like an odd milestone to celebrate, not as common as, for example, 150. But a decade ago, when Hanover turned 150, it was in no position to celebrate. It was part of Allmerica Financial Corp., a company that was struggling with its life insurance business and in dire need of change.

For Hanover, the last 10 years have been as important as the first 150. Over the past decade, the company shed its life insurance operations, expanded its property and casualty business, changed its name, extended its reach overseas and rebuilt its reputation.

Last year, a record year for insured losses, Hanover posted $37.1 million in profit, down from $154.8 million a year earlier.

Written premiums totaled about $3.5 billion in 2011, making Hanover the country's 24th largest property and casualty insurer, according to the Insurance Information Institute.

When Hanover was 150, some industry experts wondered whether the parent company was going to survive. The company's future appears much brighter today.

"The most significant thing about 160 years is the very large change from 150 years," said Michael P. Angelini, chairman of Hanover's board of directors. "There's a lot of mediocre companies that somehow muddle through. I think what's remarkable about Hanover is the remarkable change in the last 10 years."

Frederick H. Eppinger, Hanover's president and chief executive since 2003, said the company's success is a result of the fact that it has stayed innovative, despite its old age.

"It's that magic combination of relevant, but stable," he said.

To mark the company's anniversary, Mr. Eppinger will ring the closing bell at the New York Stock Exchange today.

Hanover has experienced many changes during its long history, but it has remained in the property and casualty business since it was founded, and it has been known for making conservative investments.

Hanover gets its name from Hanover Square in New York City, where it began in 1852 as the Hanover Fire Insurance Co. Big fires in Chicago and Boston during the late 1800s tested the company, but Hanover survived the fires and continued to build its financial strength. It also came through the Great Depression largely unscathed.

The company came to Worcester in 1969, when it was purchased by State Mutual Life Assurance Co. Together, the...

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