Safeco Insurance
FormerlyGeneral Insurance Company
Company typeSubsidiary
PredecessorAmerican States Financial Corporation
Washington Mutual's WM Life Insurance Company
R.F. Bailey
FoundedSeattle, Washington (1923)
FounderHawthorne K. Dent
HeadquartersSeattle, Washington, United States
Key people
Tyler Asher, President
Auto insurance
Homeowners Insurance
Liability insurance
ParentLiberty Mutual
Safeco Logo

Safeco Insurance is an American insurance company based in Seattle. A subsidiary of Liberty Mutual, Safeco provides auto insurance, homeowners insurance, and liability insurance. The company name is an acronym for Selective Auto and Fire Ensurance Company of America, or SAFECO (i.e., S.A.F.E. Co.).


Safeco was founded in 1923 by Hawthorne Kingsbury Dent (1880-1958) as the General Insurance Company of America, a property and casualty insuring company, with a headquarters in Downtown Seattle at the corner of University Street and Fourth Avenue. In 1936, it moved to the eight-story Brooklyn Building at the corner of N.E. 45th Street and Brooklyn Avenue N.E. in the University District, Seattle. In 1953, it formed a subsidiary, the "Selective Auto and Fire Insurance Company of America," or SAFECO.[1]

General Insurance began to sell life insurance in 1957. In 1968, it changed its name from the General Insurance Company of America to Safeco Corporation. Around the same time the company began to offer mutual funds and commercial credit, though precursors to the Safeco Funds had been around since the 1930s.[citation needed]

Safeco replaced the Brooklyn Building with the 22-story Safeco Plaza (now UW Tower) building in 1973. It remains the tallest building in the city outside Downtown.[2]

In January 1987, it sold its title insurance business to Chicago Title for $30.7 million cash and $46 million in a 7-year promissory note.[3]

In 1997, Safeco acquired American States Financial Corporation from Lincoln National Corporation for $2.8 billion, expanding beyond the West Coast.[4][5][6] Washington Mutual's WM Life Insurance Company was purchased the same year. In 1999, Safeco bought R.F. Bailey (Underwriting Agencies) Limited of London.[7]

In 2001, new management was brought in to restructure the company. Commercial credit operations were sold to GE Capital in August 2001.[8]

In August 2004, the company sold its life insurance and investments business to a group of private investors led by Safeco board members, Warren Buffett's Berkshire Hathaway, and White Mountains Insurance Group, incorporating as Symetra.[9][10][11] Hub International acquired Safeco's insurance brokerage operations.[10] Mellon Financial acquired Safeco Trust Company, its private bank.[12][13] Also in 2004, the company sold its land title insurance business to First American Corporation.[14]

The former Safeco Plaza, now UW Tower
The current Safeco Plaza, originally the Seafirst Building.

In July 2005, CEO Mike McGavick stepped down as CEO to run in the 2006 United States Senate election in Washington.[15]

In May 2006, Assurant acquired Safeco Financial Institution Solutions.[16]

In 2006, Microsoft acquired the company's Redmond campus for $209.5 million.[17] The University District complex was sold to the University of Washington for $130 million.[18] Safeco moved back downtown in 2007; its new headquarters at 1001 Fourth Avenue became the new Safeco Plaza, and the former Safeco Plaza was renamed UW Tower.[19]

In May 2007, BlackRock assumed management of the company's $10.5 billion investment portfolio.[20]

In September 2008, the company was acquired by Liberty Mutual Insurance for $6.2 billion in cash.[21]


In February 2010, Safeco donated more than 800 pieces of its art collection, valued at $3.5 million, to a consortium of museums, the Washington Art Consortium.[22]


Safeco held the naming rights to the Seattle Mariners' baseball stadium from its opening in July 1999 through the 2018 season.[23] The company also sponsored the Safeco Classic, a women's professional golf tournament on the LPGA Tour from 1982 through 1999; it was held in September at the Meridian Valley Country Club in Kent.


  1. ^ "Brooklyn Building, University District, Seattle, WA (1929) demolished". University of Washington.
  2. ^ "Safeco Plaza is a 50-story building rising to a height of 630 feet on the skylines of Downtown Seattle". April 17, 2017.
  3. ^ Ibata, David (January 22, 1987). "CHICAGO TITLE CLOSES SAFECO DEAL". Chicago Tribune.
  4. ^ Treaster, Joseph B. (June 10, 1997). "Safeco to Pay $2.8 Billion for American States Financial". The New York Times.
  5. ^ "SAFECO acquires American State Financial Corp". American City Business Journals. June 9, 1997.
  6. ^ Scism, Leslie (June 9, 1997). "Safeco Announces Pact To Buy American States". The Wall Street Journal.
  7. ^ "Safeco acquires London firm, establishes Safeco UK". American City Business Journals. January 6, 1999.
  8. ^ "GE Capital finishes purchase of Safeco unit". The Seattle Times. August 17, 2001.
  9. ^ "Safeco completes life and investments sale". American City Business Journals. August 2, 2004.
  10. ^ a b "COMPANY NEWS; SAFECO SELLING UNIT TO GROUP LED BY BERKSHIRE". The New York Times. Reuters. March 16, 2004.
  11. ^ Politi, James; Kelleher, Ellen (March 16, 2004). "Buffett-led group to buy Safeco units". NBC News. Financial Times.
  12. ^ "COMPANY NEWS; MELLON FINANCIAL TO ACQUIRE SAFECO'S TRUST UNIT". The New York Times. Bloomberg News. April 13, 2004.
  13. ^ "The Newsletter: Mellon Financial to buy Safeco Trust". The Seattle Times. April 13, 2004.
  14. ^ "First American Title Insurance Company Acquires Safeco Land Title". American Land Title Association. July 1, 2004.
  15. ^ "McGavick leaving Safeco for possible Senate run". American City Business Journals. July 18, 2005.
  16. ^ "Company Strengthens Its Leadership Position in Specialty Property Segment" (Press release). Assurant. May 1, 2006.
  17. ^ Peterson, Kim (January 18, 2006). "Microsoft to buy Safeco's Redmond office complex". The Seattle Times.
  18. ^ Iwaskai, John (August 28, 2006). "UW makes landmark deal, buys Safeco Tower". Seattle Post-Intelligencer.
  19. ^ Allison, Melissa (May 25, 2006). "Safeco says headquarters to be in downtown tower". The Seattle Times.
  20. ^ "Safeco moves investment money to BlackRock". Reuters. May 27, 2007.
  21. ^ "Fitch Downgrades Liberty Mutual & Safeco on Close of Acquisition; Rating Outlook Negative". Fitch Ratings. September 24, 2008.
  22. ^ Tu, Janet I. (February 11, 2010). "Safeco donating $3.5 million art collection to consortium of museums". The Seattle Times. Archived from the original on September 21, 2011.
  23. ^ Berner, Alan (November 9, 2018). "Goodbye, Safeco Field. Hello, chance to get your name on a stadium". The Seattle Times.