PhillyDeals: Rival tries to stop team of insurers - who are ex-employees

Website of Speed Raceway, Asplundh family's go-kart facility, to open Saturday.
Website of Speed Raceway, Asplundh family's go-kart facility, to open Saturday.
Posted: September 14, 2012

Fast-growing, Minnesota-based OneBeacon Insurance Co. boasted to clients last week that a new team headed by Philadelphia-based executive Chad Anderson had started selling surety insurance to corporate clients for specialized business risks.

OneBeacon didn't mention that a rival insurer - Anderson's former employer - is trying to shut that team down.

Before July 30, Anderson headed the East Coast surety team at Ace Ltd., a multinational insurance giant whose biggest operating base is in Center City (it is the successor to the old Insurance Co. of North America). But on that day, the entire eight-person team resigned together and joined OneBeacon together, according to Ace.

Ace sued to block the move in August, complaining the workers wrongly took company and customer information - and that this "raid" and team leaders' failure to warn their bosses it was coming, violated their "duty of loyalty" to their employer under Pennsylvania law.

Ace doesn't say it wants the group back. It wants cash, plus an injunction keeping the workers from joining its rival, according to the suit.

OneBeacon is fighting Ace's claims and says the team was hired legally. Ace declined to comment on the case. Two representatives for OneBeacon didn't return calls.

Post-Walmart

Lawyer Travis Thompson and members of the Carl Asplundh family (they started the Philadelphia-area tree service, with its orange-colored trucks) say they have invested "millions" in Speed Raceway, "America's largest indoor go-kart facility," at the 100,000-square-foot former Walmart store at Village Mall on Blair Mill Road, Horsham. (The discount chain moved four years ago to a bigger site on Blair Mill.) Speed Raceway opens Saturday.

"It's a business. We'll definitely do more of these," said Carl's son and partner, Keith Asplundh, who said he sold his family on the go-kart idea after visiting a fellow Academy at Bryn Athyn graduate's busy Colorado track.

Hack away

Pennapps, the twice-yearly computer-programming hackathon at the University of Pennsylvania, boosted its capacity for this weekend's competition to 300 teams of speed-coding student hackers, up from 180 in the spring. The quota was filled in less than a half hour after online registration opened earlier this week, co-organizer Trisha Kothari tells me.

All 100 "Penn-hacker" and 200 "visiting-hacker" tickets are sold out, Kothari says. The out-of-towners include students "from Berkeley on the West Coast to MIT on the East," she said.

"This is terrifying, in the best of all possible ways," said co-organizer Amalia Hawkins.

The student teams will enjoy what hackathon and its corporate sponsors promise will be "tons of free food and swag and Frisbee and midnight Nerf-gun fights," not to mention the main event, which starts with a Friday night application-programming-interface demo, as it were, the rules of the software-writing road.

Could these hackers keep going all 40 hours? "Only a few teams usually do that," said Hawkins. Others will crash with host students for naps before it's back to coding. The public is invited to the awards ceremony at 5 p.m. Sunday at Houston Hall, on Spruce Street west of 34th Street.

Gradual cuts

Not so fast, says David M. Walker, the ex-General Accountability Office chief, who is financing the "$10 Million a Minute" bus tour that is part of a broad, corporate-backed, increasingly coordinated campaign to push Congress to overcome Democratic-Republican divides, cut spending, boost taxes, and set limits on benefit and military spending.

I wrote about the highlights of Walker's program in Wednesday's column. Walker is concerned the size of the proposed changes will turn off some older voters, who wouldn't be directly affected.

Yes, Walker wants to raise the age for Social Security eligibility - but only "gradually over time, so that those currently 55 and over will not see their benefits affected," says his spokesman, Bill Beaman. Medicare would be measured by need, and medical payments limited, but older recipients would not be cut off.


Contact Joseph N. DiStefano at 215-854-5194 or JoeD@phillynews.com, or follow on Twitter @PhillyJoeD.

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