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The chairman and CEO of the Great American Insurance Company, Lindner begins each day with 30 minutes of prayer.

He’s overseen the company’s transformation to an international underwriter of specialty insurance and reinsurance products.

While he plans to stay on the job for at least another decade, Lindner has begun making plans for immediate and long-term successors.

A Calculated Risk-Taker Finds Peace

Not even significant wealth made Carl H. Lindner III happy. So he quit his workaholic ways, reconnected with his family and found his spiritual side.

By  Mike Patten

[Page 2 of 4]

In 2011, Ward Group included Great American Property & Casualty Insurance Group in its “Ward’s 50” list of the leading insurance companies. Lindner says keeping the company a leader poses a challenge.

“This is a unique business,” he says. “In a lot of cases you don’t know your true costs of doing business for years. That always provides challenges, particularly in the liability and the workers comp side of our business. A change in judges and the court system or rulings by judges to include something that everyone in the industry thought was excluded are risks and challenges that are ongoing in this business. They can mean big losses if they are changes in the interpretations that nobody thought would be made. That’s a big challenge.”

The past couple of years have been hard throughout the industry as companies faced the economic collapse of 2008 and then a series of natural disasters that continued through 2011.

“Our company’s philosophy around how much catastrophe risk we want to take is kind of tied to my faith, and also to common sense,” Lindner says. “During my lifetime, there have already been two or three one-in-50-year events. So common sense says maybe the models are good tools, but they don’t have everything figured out. If you believe there is a sovereign God who can do whatever he wants, whenever he wants, with regard to earthquakes, windstorms, tornadoes and all those types of events, it makes you be a little bit more careful in taking on lots of exposure. Because in our business you need to know what your projected loss costs are. And if you believe there is a sovereign God, it’s almost impossible to get the right price.

“One thing about our company over the last few years: As there have been major catastrophes, sure, we have losses, but we have lower relative catastrophe volatility than most companies. During 2011, a year of heavy industry CAT losses, we didn’t change our earnings guidance down, which was pretty amazing.”

Lindner says he loves his job, but it wasn’t always so.

Recovered Workaholic

“It took a while—quite a few years—for God to get my attention and (make me) realize I didn’t have the peace and the joy that I should,” he says. “Money, power, position—all those things—weren’t going to make me happy. I was fairly young to have the size responsibilities that I had. God had to get my attention because I wasn’t a happy camper. As I started reading the Bible again, started having a prayerful life, guess what? My happiness and my joy returned, and I’ve been a more effective business executive, having a more balanced perspective.”

Part of the balance came from knowing when to slow down.

“My father was a workaholic until his death,” he says. “I was a workaholic to the worst degree for probably the first 15 years of my work life. It was my faith and my wife’s encouragement and some older friends who told me the one thing they would have changed in life is to spend more time with the wife and children. I was blessed to have friends who would be honest with me, and I think my faith and my wife caused me to have a better balance of work and family for the last 15 to 20 years. I probably worked from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m., worked weekends, and my wife and family didn’t see me too much. That wasn’t going to work. I’m in it for the long haul.

“I’ve been blessed with great health and a lot of energy, and I’m really trying to manage my health so I can work until I’m at least 70.”

Today he is a member of the Alfalfa Club of Washington, D.C., and the Commercial Club of Cincinnati. He was one of the founding elders of Horizon Community Church in Cincinnati. In 2008, President George W. Bush appointed Lindner to serve on the board of trustees at the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts in Washington, D.C.

Education has been one of the pillars of the Lindners’ charitable giving. Lindner and his wife, Martha, were among the founders and major benefactors of the Cincinnati Hills Christian Academy in 1989. The private school was established in a Cincinnati suburb as a K-7 school but has since expanded to include a middle school, a high school and an inner-city elementary school. The inner-city school—the Otto Armleder Memorial Education Center—was founded in 2000 with help from Lindner’s father and brother Keith. Today, more than 1,500 students attend classes at the academy’s four campuses. Nearly all of the 92 graduates in the class of 2011 now attend college.

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