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O.C. BUSINESS PLUS : ORANGE COUNTY BRIEFLY : State's Largest Life Insurance Firm Grows : Pacific Life of Newport Beach buys majority stakes in Beverly Hills-based brokerage and a related company.

September 23, 1999|(Liz Pulliam)

California's largest life insurance firm, Newport Beach-based Pacific Life Insurance Co., said Wednesday it will add Beverly Hills-based M.L. Stern & Co. to its stable of financial management and brokerage companies.

Pacific Life said it will buy a majority interest in Stern and in Tower Asset Management, an affiliate. Terms weren't disclosed.

M.L. Stern, founded in 1980, has 140 brokers in four offices in Beverly Hills, Carmel, Sacramento and San Diego. The brokers sell stocks, bonds and mutual funds as well as life insurance products.

Pacific Life, with about $40 billion in assets, owns Los Angeles-based Associated Securities Corp., which has 340 brokers, and 2,000-broker Mutual Service Corp. of Florida, as well as large stakes in Newport Beach-based investment management firm Pimco Advisors, and United Planners' Financial Services of America, an Arizona broker-dealer with 330 brokers.

Two years ago Pacific Life's parent company became the largest policyholder-owned mutual insurance company to convert to a mutual holding company structure, in part to better pursue acquisitions. Pacific Life is now owned by a stock holding company, Pacific Life Corp., which is in turn owned by Pacific Mutual Holding Co. The stock holding company has not yet gone public, although the firm has said it plans to eventually sell shares in an initial public offering to raise cash for future expansion.

Pacific Life companies now manage $300 billion in clients' assets, nearly twice as much as two years ago. The 130-year-old firm now ranks as the 18th-largest U.S. life insurance company, up from 26th five years ago.

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