Zurich Financial Services Group has signed a stock purchase agreement for the sale of its wholly owned auto dealer insurance provider Universal Underwriters Group to an investor group led by Hellman & Friedman, a private equity investment firm headquartered in San Francisco.

The transaction is valued at approximately $1.1 billion and expected to be completed in the third quarter of 2005.

James Schiro, CEO of Zurich Financial Services, said, Universal Underwriters’ business model is no longer in line with our unified operating model and brand for Zurich’s North American Commercial businesses. The transaction provides Zurich with an attractive price and allows us to focus our resources and attention on our core markets and businesses.

Universal Underwriters is a provider of specialized insurance and financial services to franchised auto, truck, equipment and motorcycle dealers and the automotive aftermarket in the US. For the fiscal year ended December 31, 2004, Universal Underwriters generated gross written premiums and fees of $1.5 billion. It has been part of the Zurich group since its acquisition by Zurich in 1982.