Sterling Collision Centers Sold to Allstate Corporation 

BOSTON--(BUSINESS WIRE)--May 8, 2001--Berkshire Partners LLC ("Berkshire"), the Boston-based private equity investment firm, announced today a definitive agreement to sell Sterling Collision Centers, Inc. ("Sterling") to The Allstate Corporation ("Allstate"). Financial terms of the agreement were not disclosed.

    Sterling, headquartered in Natick, MA, is one of the nation's leading consolidators of automotive collision repair centers. Sterling was formed in 1997 by management and other investors, including Conning Capital Partners ("Conning"), in order to acquire and operate collision repair centers. In May 1998, Berkshire, Conning and other existing shareholders invested an additional $25 million in the company to further support its acquisition strategy. The company currently operates 39 facilities in Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Michigan, Ohio, Pennsylvania, and Texas.

    "In 1998, it was clear the $24 billion auto body repair industry was significantly under served and highly fragmented," noted Berkshire Managing Director Ross Jones. "Sterling was an attractive investment because its strong management team was well on their way to creating a superior collision repair business model. Allstate's acquisition of Sterling is a great strategic fit because it will enable Allstate to leverage Sterling's model to better serve its customers, while reducing costs."

    "We are very excited about this new relationship," said Sterling CEO Jonathan McNeill. "Allstate will be a terrific partner. They share our vision of expanding our model to other markets and are equally committed to customer satisfaction. Like Sterling, they understand that it is good business to reduce repair times and improve the facilities' efficiencies while delivering superior customer service."

    Berkshire Partners is an active investor in the private equity market managing $1.8 billion of capital. Through its 15-year investment history, Berkshire has completed 70 acquisitions or growth capital investments with a primary focus on building solid, growth-oriented companies in conjunction with strong, equity-incented management teams. Berkshire invests in a number of industries including transportation, telecommunications, retailing, business services, and manufacturing. Its private equity transactions have taken several forms; leveraged buyouts, recapitalizations, growth capital investments, privatizations, and industry consolidations. Investors consist primarily of university endowments, public and private pension funds, insurance companies, foundations, and financial institutions.

    Conning Capital Partners, a unit of Conning & Company, (Member: NASD/SIPC), is a prominent investor in financial services and e-commerce firms. Headquartered in Hartford, Connecticut, Conning Capital Partners has close to $600 million under management invested in a wide variety of financial services and technology companies, including software, brokerage, banking, insurance and managed care companies.

    The Allstate Corporation (NYSE: ALL) is the nation's largest publicly held personal lines insurer. Widely known through the "You're In Good Hands With Allstate(R)" slogan, Allstate provides insurance products to more than 14 million households and has approximately 13,000 exclusive agents in the U.S. and Canada. Customers can access Allstate products and services through Allstate agents, or in select states at and 1-800-Allstate. Encompass and Deerbrook Insurance brand property and casualty products are sold exclusively through independent agents. Allstate Financial Group includes the businesses that provide life insurance, retirement and investment products.