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Va. firm Hilb, Rogal buys Tongue, Brooks


Tongue, Brooks and Co. Inc., a 97-year-old insurance agency and longtime fixture in downtown Baltimore, has been acquired by a Virginia company that plans to merge it into its Towson office.

Hilb, Rogal and Hamilton Co., based in the Richmond suburb of Glen Allen, Va., announced Thursday that it has signed a contract to purchase all assets of the Baltimore firm, which was founded in 1898 by T. T. Tongue, from Crown Central Petroleum Corp.

Michael R. Murphy, president and chief executive of Hilb, Rogal's Baltimore subsidiary, said Crown Central acquired the insurance agency in 1988. Mr. Murphy said Tongue, Brooks now employs about 40 people, whose jobs will be lost downtown.

In addition to the Tongue agency purchase, Hilb, Rogal's local office announced yesterday that it has agreed to purchase Cross Keys Insurance Agency Inc., an 8-year-old firm formerly known as Bayly, Martin & Fay of Maryland Inc. That agency, which employs about 20 in offices just south of Towson, will also be combined into Hilb, Rogal's local office.

Mr. Murphy, whose office currently employs about 60 people, said the consolidated firm will employ about 100 people -- indicating that about 20 jobs will be lost in the process.

"Obviously there are some economies of scale and back-room redundancies we will eliminate," Mr. Murphy said. He added that the consolidation reflected a nationwide trend in the insurance agency business.

Hilb, Rogal said Pete Urquhart, president of Tongue, Brooks, will join its Towson office as executive vice president, reporting to Mr. Murphy.

For decades, Tongue, Brooks has occupied an office building near the city's main courthouse at 213 St. Paul Place. The building was recently sold to a law firm, Mr. Murphy said, and the insurance company is now its tenant.

According to the Virginia company, Tongue, Brooks represents more than 600 businesses and 3,000 families through its affiliations with 25 insurance carriers. Hilb, Rogal said Cross Keys has about 2,000 individual and business clients.

Hilb, Rogal is a large insurance company with 52 agencies in 16 states and the District of Columbia. The company, whose shares are traded on the New York Stock Exchange, reported revenue last year of $140.8 million.

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