National firm buys Pruett employee benefits group

Three dozen employees moving over to Ohio company

A national provider of financial and human resources services has acquired the employee benefits business of Chuck Pruett, the managing partner for Northwestern Mutual in Middle and East Tennessee.

Cleveland, Ohio-based CBIZ Inc. said it closed on its purchase of the Strategic Employee Benefit Services — The Pruett Group earlier this week. A deal price was not disclosed but CBIZ officials said the business produces $5.1 million in annual revenues. Ken Rideout will move from under Pruett's umbrella to be president of what is now called CBIZ Nashville Benefit & Insurance Services.

Pruett said he decided to sell the employee benefits business — his core financial services firm under the Northwestern Mutual brand is home to 125 financial representatives, 100 associates employed by them and another 33 full-time staff — after recognizing that it needed to be beefed up in the face of the changing health care and benefits sector. He said he talked to a half dozen or so companies before deciding on CBIZ, which he said can offer clients other services such as payroll and HR consulting.

"There are tremendous opportunities for us in our core business of risk management and investment products," Pruett said. "I'm excited because it will be great for our representatives to have more products and services to bring to clients."

CBIZ is taking on 36 Strategic Employee Benefits Service employees in Nashville, Chattanooga, Knoxville and Johnson City. In each of those cities, they will stay in their current offices and CBIZ will sublease space from Pruett.

"We are very pleased to add SEBS-Pruett to our growing employee services business," said CBIZ Chairman and CEO Steven Gerard. "Under the leadership of Ken Rideout, we expect to expand our market penetration in this geographic area and provide our existing and future clients with a more comprehensive array of professional products and services."

CBIZ (Ticker: CBZ) earned $24.6 million in the first half of this year on revenues of $409 million. Both of those numbers were essentially flat from 2011.