The story of American General Life Companies (American General) began in 1925 when the Texas Commission of Appeals made a historic ruling that enabled insurance companies to underwrite both property and casualty insurance. Our founder, Gus S. Wortham, had operated a successful insurance agency in Houston in 1915 and had a vision for such a company. With the backing of his father and several prominent business associates, he launched the American General Insurance Company on May 8, 1926, one of the first multi-line insurance companies in the nation. Three years later, American General declared its first dividend.
In 1945, American General completed the first of its own strategic acquisitions, Seaboard Life Insurance Company, making American General the only company in the southern United States to underwrite fire, life, automobile and casualty insurance. Another acquisition in 1953 in Omaha marked American General's first expansion outside Texas. Throughout the 1960s and early 1970s, companies in Maryland, New York and Tennessee followed. By 1968, American General had reached $1 billion in total assets and began trading on the New York Stock Exchange.
In the late 1970s, American General acquired The Variable Annuity Life Insurance Company (VALIC), which marked American General's expansion into the retirement savings market. VALIC's co-founders spearheaded the introduction of variable annuities, a visionary strategy that has resulted in a trillion-dollar industry today.
In 1982, American General initiated its consumer finance operations, which have subsequently grown into one of the company's key business segments. Later that year, American General completed the largest acquisition in the history of the life insurance industry at that time, with the $1.5 billion purchase of The National Life and Accident Insurance Company, which is now American General Life and Accident Insurance Company. This transformed American General into a focused financial services organization emphasizing retirement services, life insurance and consumer finance.
The financial services industry underwent dramatic regulatory changes, heightened competition and consolidation in the 1990s. In 1994, American General acquired 40 percent of Western National Corporation, the nation's leading provider of retirement annuities sold through financial institutions. In 1995, American General completed the $1.2 billion acquisition of The Franklin Life Insurance Company, adding the Springfield, Illinois-based insurer to its network. Another important milestone occurred in 1997 with the $1.8 billion acquisition of New York-based United States Life Corporation. And when the remainder of Western National was acquired in 1998, American General became the third-largest writer of individual annuities in the nation.
On August 29, 2001, American International Group, Inc. acquired American General. Its member companies write a wide range of general insurance and life insurance products for commercial, institutional and individual customers through a variety of distribution channels in approximately 130 countries and jurisdictions throughout the world. Today, American General Life Companies is poised for robust growth in the 21st century.