John J. Byrne, whose turnaround of auto insurer Geico Corp. led billionaire Warren Buffett to buy the company and call him “the Babe Ruth of insurance,” has died. He was 80.
Byrne died on March 7 at his home in Etna, New Hampshire, according to Robert E. Snyder, a family spokesman. The cause was prostate cancer.
In his letter to Berkshire shareholders reviewing 1980, Buffett credited Byrne’s “managerial brilliance” with resuscitating Geico after his arrival in 1976.
“There aren’t many Jack Byrnes in the managerial world, or Geicos in the business world,” Buffett wrote. “What could be better than buying into a partnership with both of them?”
Jack Byrne is one of the greatest insurance executives in the past hundred years. If it weren’t for his leadership, GEICO might have gone under or remained a below average institution, and Buffett might never have bought the company.
There’s actually an Insurance Hall of Fame. Byrne was inducted in 2009 and there’s a lot more to read there about his many accomplishments.