Ex-Markel Group chair and chief executive passes away

He transformed a regional insurer into a multinational conglomerate

Ex-Markel Group chair and chief executive passes away

Insurance News

By Terry Gangcuangco

Alan Kirshner, the esteemed former chairman and chief executive of Markel Group, passed away at the age of 88 on March 17.

Kirshner’s journey with Markel Group began in 1960, and his visionary leadership was instrumental in the company’s evolution from a regional insurer to a multinational conglomerate. His tenure on the board of directors commenced in 1978, culminating in his role as chair and CEO in 1986. The enterprise began trading publicly in the same year.

Markel Group – the name behind insurance brand Markel – was led by Kirshner in his capacity as chief executive until 2015. He transitioned to the position of executive chairman in 2016, before ultimately assuming the role of chair emeritus in 2020. Under his guidance, Markel Group’s workforce expanded from fewer than 300 employees to over 20,000 globally.

Tom Gayner, the current CEO, expressed deep sorrow over Kirshner’s passing, saying: “This is a sad day. It’s hard to put into words the legacy and impact of Alan Kirshner. He was as savvy and hard-working a leader as anyone I ever met, but it was his commitment to people that really set him apart.

“Alan was by nature a builder and dedicated his life to building a company that could serve others for generations to come. In doing so, he taught us that there is nothing more important in business and life than treating people with kindness and respect. It’s a lesson and legacy that we’ll never forget.”

Kirshner was the main proponent of the Markel Style, a cultural manifesto that has remained intact since 1986 and epitomises the company’s core values, among which is a strong commitment to supporting communities. Kirshner personally contributed to this ethos through his philanthropic efforts, notably founding the Faison School for autistic children and the Partnership for the Future program.

Tony Markel, vice chairman, reflected on his long-standing partnership and friendship with Kirshner, stating: “Words alone cannot express my gratitude for having been his friend and partner for the last 64 years. He was the consummate leader… kind, caring, generous, respectful, and above all a great listener. As the author of the Markel Style, his legacy is assured endurance.”

Echoing these sentiments, board chair Steve Markel said: “I worked side-by-side with Alan for nearly five decades. He was a visionary, challenging leadership and the organisation to embrace change, innovate, create, and strive for a better way. Through the Markel Style, his spirit and principles will live forever within Markel Group.”

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