Canadian Underwriter

Fairfax chief financial officer died suddenly

May 21, 2019   by Greg Meckbach

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David Bonham, chief financial officer of Fairfax Financial Holdings Ltd., died suddenly this past weekend, the Toronto-based company announced Tuesday.

Fairfax is the corporate owner of Northbridge Insurance and several international property and casualty insurers, including OdysseyRe, Brit PLC, Allied World and Crum & Forster.

“Dave was incredibly bright and disciplined as our CFO, and we will all miss his sense of humour, quick wit and caring nature,” said Prem Watsa, Fairfax’s founder, chairman and chief executive officer. “We extend our deepest sympathies to Dave’s family.”

John Varnell, vice president of corporate development, was appointed to serve as CFO on an interim basis.

Along with other senior Fairfax managers, Bonham regularly spoke on conference calls discussing Fairfax’s financial results with analysts.

Fairfax had net premiums written of US$12.43 billion in 2018.

The company is traded on the Toronto Stock Exchange.

Northbridge ranked 10th in the Canadian property insurance market in 2017, with net written premiums of nearly $500 million, according to the Canadian Underwriter Statistical Guide.

Fairfax’s U.S. insurers include Stamford, Conn.-based OdysseyRe, workers compensation insurer Zenith National of Woodland Hills, Calif. and commercial specialty insurer Crum & Forster of Morristown, N.J.

Two years ago, Fairfax closed its US$5-billion acquisition of the majority of Allied World Assurance Company Holdings AG, which is based in Switzerland and writes both commercial primary and reinsurance.

In 2015, Fairfax bought the majority of Brit PLC, a London-based Lloyd’s insurer.

Other recent Fairfax acquisitions include American International Group Inc.’s local commercial and consumer insurance operations in Argentina, Chile, Colombia, Uruguay, Venezuela and Turkey.

Outside of the P&C insurance industry, Fairfax owns retailers Toys R Us Canada, Golf Town, Sporting Life and William Ashley China. Fairfax also owns the majority of restaurant firm Recipe Unlimited, whose brands include Harvey’s, Swiss Chalet, The Keg, Kelsey’s, East Side Mario’s, Montana’s, Milestones, State and Main, The Pickel Barrel, Bier Markt and New York Fries.

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