I’m not a lawyer – hell, I can barely read – let alone interpret and apply anti-competition laws as they relate to billionaire intermediaries in the insurance industry.
Besides, ‘high finance’ to me is figuring out how I’m going to make the mortgage payment on this cracker box, pay my bar tab and cover the car note all in the same month. Sometimes it works out – and sometimes a guy in India calls asking me where the money went. . .
So, the recent revelation by The Daytona Beach News-Journal that insurance mogul and supreme political insider J. Hyatt Brown, is suing a group of former Brown & Brown executives who left the firm in 2016 and have formed a competing insurance and employee benefits company was really no skin off my nose.
But, as a resident of Volusia County, I know something about betrayal.
To hear J. Hyatt and his high-powered attorneys tell it, his former protégé Charlie Lydecker, and Thomas Tinsley, the former chief financial officer of Brown & Brown’s retail division, along with several other executives “conspired” to create a competing insurance company while still employed by Brown & Brown.
According to reports, the “plot” reads like a John Grisham novel – complete with “clandestine meetings,” the use of non-traceable ‘burner’ phones, secretly recorded telephone conversations between senior executives – real cloak-and-dagger skulduggery that gives this Clash of the Titans a classic Dirty Daytona feel.
For instance, the lawsuit alleges that Lydecker once said with regards to his former mentor, J. Hyatt Brown, “’Why won’t the old fucker just die?’”
The more I thought about it – I got to wondering: Is this really a Clash of the Titans? Or a David and Goliath tale as old as the ages?
In his excellent exposé, News-Journal business writer Clayton Park revealed that the companies formed by Lydecker and the others – Foundation Risk Partners and Halifax Insurance Partners – employ some 750 people collectively, with 40 of those based at their Daytona Beach headquarters.
The companies currently operate in eight states with annual revenues of approximately $155 million.
Not too shabby, eh?
I can almost hear J. Hyatt saying, “Hold my beer. . .”
Brown & Brown – one of the world’s ten largest insurance intermediaries – was formed in Daytona Beach in 1939. The self-described “Meritocracy” is now led by the third generation of Browns – J. Hyatt and J. Powell – and operates “. . .throughout the United States, in England and Bermuda providing a variety of insurance products and services to general businesses, corporations, governmental and quasi-governmental institutions, professional organizations, trade associations, families and individuals.”
Last year, Brown & Brown generated a record $1.88 billion in revenues and currently employs more than 8,600 workers, “including more than 300 in Daytona Beach.”
In my view, the proper analogy is the proverbial ant crawling up an elephant’s backside with love on his mind – no real threat to Brown & Brown’s hold on the market – so why is a behemoth like Brown & Brown so intent on crushing anyone or anything that stands in their way?
Because that’s exactly how J. Hyatt and company dominate the industry and control their environment.
Last year, Brown & Brown sued the eyeballs out of Assured-Partners, a rival Lake Mary-based company formed in 2011 by several of its former executives for “violating employment contracts by recruiting Brown & Brown employees and clients.”
Don’t worry – in the end – everyone landed on their feet with Assured-Partners becoming the 13th largest broker of United States business with more than $800 million in annual revenues. It sold to a private equity firm in 2015.
According to The Daytona Beach News-Journal, this recent lawsuit began with the ominous sentence, “This is a case of betrayal.”
Look, I don’t know Charlie Lydecker or J. Hyatt Brown personally.
We run in different social circles I think – and I never see either of them in the saloons I haunt from time-to-time. However, I’ve heard from mutual friends that Mr. Lydecker is a nice guy – very smart and civic-minded – while other’s have told me that Mr. Brown can be mean-spirited and very aggressive with people who piss him off – I don’t know.
But I’ll just bet J. Hyatt didn’t become a billionaire by being a patsy.
I also don’t have a clue about who’s right and who’s wrong in this case – I suppose a judge will ultimately decide.
But, I know how Mr. Brown must feel.
It hurts when people you trust and rely on to have your best interests at heart expose themselves as disloyal shit-heels – feathering their own nest at the expense of those who put their faith in them.
In my view – J. Hyatt Brown has emerged as the poster boy for all that’s wrong with our bastardized campaign finance system that allows a few uber-wealthy insiders to shovel cash into the campaign coffers of their hand-select candidates for local public office – then reap the return on that investment in massive ‘economic development incentives,’ tax breaks, infrastructure for private projects, etc., etc. – from city, county and state government.
The incredible power of the almighty dollar permits our “Rich & Powerful” to manipulate public policy simply by their physical presence in the County Council chambers – and in my opinion – that’s dangerous, and counter to our democratic principles.
But that’s not J. Hyatt’s fault – it’s the political cowardice and gross subservience of our craven elected officials who cling to power by the financial wherewithal of a few incredibly influential people who unofficially control Volusia County through deft control of these gutless elected marionettes on the dais of power in DeLand.
It’s a Faustian bargain as old as politics itself.
And if you don’t think this directly affects your lives and livelihoods – think again.
We stand idle while our century-old heritage of beach driving and access is slowly taken away and traded as a cheap incentive for speculative developers – and families struggle to survive in an artificial economy which has resulted in widespread poverty, left our core tourist areas in tatters, and fostered a growing sense of hopelessness – all while insiders get even wealthier.
Because guys like J. Hyatt Brown know what’s best for us – and for their bottom line – and they have more money than you do. That’s why.
Yep. The long-suffering residents of Volusia County know something about betrayal. . .