ACE Ltd. Chief Executive Officer Evan Greenberg, who agreed this month to buy Chubb Corp., said integration talks went well with management at the target company, at least after drinks were served.

For more details on Greenberg’s remarks from the town hall meeting, see related article, “Straight Talk from Industry CEOs at ACE and Travelers.”
A recent gathering of executives began like an event for teenagers in which boys and girls separated to opposite sides of the room, Greenberg said in a town hall meeting with Chubb staff, according to a transcript that was in a regulatory filing Wednesday.

“The difference between the high school mixer though is we could hand out alcohol, and so within a reasonable period of time, everybody came out of their own corner,” Greenberg said. “The excitement, the good will and natural respect was there. I don’t overstate it. People are still strangers, but it’s a beginning.”

Greenberg is seeking to convince investors that he can cut costs after agreeing to buy Warren, New Jersey-based Chubb for more than $28 billion in cash and stock. He’s also working to assure staff of the target company that he intends to preserve the culture and the jobs of the top employees. Hartford Financial Services Group Inc. and QBE Insurance Group Ltd. have both announced hirings in recent weeks of employees from Zurich-based ACE or another company that it acquired.

“This is like giving a speech in the Roman Colosseum. I hope there’s no lions,” Greenberg said. “It’s an awkward moment for people. It’s an unsettled moment.”

Greenberg will keep the Chubb name at the combined company, a nod to the strength of the brand in the U.S. and the history of the business, which traces its roots to the 1880s. Chubb CEO John Finnegan has previously announced plans to retire, and Greenberg will lead the combined company.

‘Out the Window’

ACE has said the purchase will help the insurer compete in the high-net-worth market covering mansions and yachts, and will add workers’ compensation and commercial auto coverage. The buyer forecast annual savings of about $650 million before taxes by the third year after the completion of the deal, which is expected in early 2016.

Still, Greenberg sought at the town hall to distinguish Chubb from a property/casualty business that ACE bought from CIGNA Corp. in 1999, a deal that he recalled led to several thousand job cuts. He said he feels a responsibility to Chubb employees. He noted, for example, Chubb’s “stellar” claims service and said the merger would preserve that, Chubb’s robust agency dynamic and other aspects of its culture.

That said, Greenberg also highlighted the sort of culture he wants.

“Management is close to the action,” he said. “We’re not remote. We work at 10,000 feet and we work at ground zero every single day, and I’ll tell you what, to win an account, if it’s $50,000 or more, I’ll throw myself out the window myself to win that account.”

*Carrier Management added additional material to this story from the SEC filing.