When AFS/IBEX Financial Services announced that most of its assets were being sold to MetaBank a few weeks back, it was the end of an era – sort of. This transaction marked the closing of a chapter in the history of a nearly 120-year-old business that has been an economic contributor and player in the Fort Worth community for decades. AFS/IBEX was the last independent piece of the conglomerate known as The Rigg Group, a business that traces its roots back to 1895, originally as a property/casualty insurance agency. The company really took off in the late 1950s when Cecil Y. Ray Jr. and Henry Meadows bought into the firm. So, you might ask, how did the name Wm. Rigg Co. come about?
“It was named after an uncle of Cecil Ray’s,” says Bill Meadows, the late Henry Meadows’ son and currently chairmanemeritus at HUB International Rigg. “They wanted a name that would last, would live on after themselves, so they chose the name of an uncle Cecil liked. That shows a whole lot about those two gentlemen.” If you’ve been around Fort Worth long enough, you’ll recall the Rigg name from back in the days when it was one of the largest residential real estate companies around. Wm. Rigg Realtors’ signs were everywhere. Meadows says the company didn’t really want to sell the residential real estate part of the business but “Coldwell Banker made us an offer we couldn’t refuse.” At its height, the real estate component had between 400 and 500 realtors and the insurance agencies had about 300. “It’s a real Fort Worth success story,” Meadows says. Think about it, Meadows says: Ray and Henry Meadows took a small Fort Worth insurance agency and turned it into one of the top 50 agencies in the U.S., with a statewide presence. In real estate, Wm. Rigg was the largest in Tarrant County, No. 3 in the Metroplex and was expanding around the state, he says. And now it’s all gone? Not really. The AFS/IBEX Financial Services component is becoming a part of MetaBank, partially because the company simply needed deeper pockets to continue growing its business. “Among the leading mid-sized banks in the nation, MetaBank is a perfect partner to help us grow our business,” says AFS President John Holsan. Holsan will serve as president of MetaBank’s new insurance premium finance division that will continue to be known as AFS.
Wm. Rigg Co. Insurance and RISC Inc., sold in 2007 to HUB International, have become the basis for HUB’s expansion into Texas and into new markets such as oil and gas. And Coldwell Banker is doing just fine. “What Cecil and my dad did was build a capital asset,” says Meadows. “Profits were great for everyone over a long time and they continue to be valuable assets. Jay Scheideman, AFS’s CFO, says the company was great about finding the right people. “We never had a lot of capital, but we were able to make deals happen and a lot of that is due to Mr. Ray’s ability to recruit people. He was great at it.” Ray was also the idea man for the company. “We dreaded coming in Mondays,” says Meadows. “Because we’d all been out hunting, fishing, doing something, but Ray was laser-focused on the business. He’d have 1,000 new ideas on Monday. He was a guy who never stopped thinking about how to make the business bigger and better. He thought about it all the time.” Scheideman agrees. “We’d have to figure out which ones we could afford and which ones were worth doing,” he says. “And a lot of them were.”
Panthers are some hep cats “Dear Madam, Dear Sir,” the Sept. 16 letter begins, innocuously enough. “It is with great pleasure that we invite your band, Paschal High School Jazz Ensemble, to perform at the 48th Montreux Jazz Festival, which will be held between July 3 and 18, 2015.” The rest of it is not innocuous at all. Those Swiss get right to the point. With that letter, the Paschal High School Jazz Ensemble has been on a fundraising drum roll, hoping to raise enough money (somewhere around $100,000) to send the band on its way to Montreux, Switzerland, and the most prestigious jazz festival in the world. Among the artists who have performed groundbreaking sets there: Aretha Franklin, Ray Charles and Miles Davis. One of my first introductions to jazz was via the mighty album, Swiss Movement, by Les McCann and Eddie Harris and their punch-to-the-gut version of “Compared to What.” Check out trumpeter Benny Bailey on that album. Paschal’s 19-piece big band, led by conductor Mark De Hertogh, and the booster club had previously raised money for a quality sound recording to send to the festival organizers. With some help from a Paschal alumnus, John Thomas, a trumpeter who also teaches at the University of Southern California, the band pulled together a high quality recording and sent it off to Montreux. That may have been the easy part. De Hertogh says the idea of playing at Montreux came to him after a few years teaching. “I went to the University of North Texas and I have a long history of touring and I realized what it meant for me. I thought the students could have that same kind of experience,” he says. The band is holding a variety of events to help raise funds for the trip. For more information contact De Hertogh at Christopher.firstname.lastname@example.org. For some music from the band, go to soundcloud.com and search for Paschal Jazz Ensemble.