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Farmers Promotion Points to Likely Successor : Insurance: New President Martin D. Feinstein appears to be in line to take reins from Chairman Leo E. Denlea Jr.

November 05, 1994|THOMAS S. MULLIGAN | TIMES STAFF WRITER

With the elevation of Martin D. Feinstein, 46, to president and chief operating officer, Farmers Insurance Group appears to be naming a likely successor to the company's chairman and chief executive, Leo E. Denlea Jr.

The promotion, announced Thursday and effective Jan. 1, gives Feinstein--currently a senior vice president--two of the four titles formerly held by Denlea, who at age 62 is three years from the Los Angeles-based company's traditional retirement age.

(Due to an editing error, in most editions Friday The Times incorrectly stated that Feinstein would succeed Denlea on Jan. 1. Denlea will remain chairman and chief executive, positions he has held since 1986.)

Farmers' next-highest-ranking officer is Executive Vice President William H. Braddock, 59.

Feinstein, who joined Farmers in 1969, has "risen like a rocket" in recent years, involving himself in some of the company's highest-priority projects, according to an industry source who asked not to be identified. For instance, Feinstein headed a $300-million computerization project to promote efficiency in claims processing and improved customer service.

Farmers, California's third-largest homeowners and auto insurer, had been regarded within the industry as stodgy and somewhat backward in terms of technological development. Founded in California in 1928, the insurer is now a unit of Britain-based BAT Industries.

In announcing Feinstein's promotion, Farmers also unveiled details of an internal reorganization that will give increased independence to its life insurance, commercial insurance and personal lines (auto and homeowners) operations.

Under the reorganization, each of the three core units will have its own underwriting, claims handling, research and product development departments, instead of sharing those functions in a centralized way.

Before the reorganization takes effect Jan. 1, Farmers said it will name executives to head each of the three units.

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