(Updates with Coast Guard in eighth paragraph, marketing in the 10th.)
July 3 (Bloomberg) -- Paul S. Amos, who co-founded Aflac Inc. with his brothers and helped build it into the largest seller of supplemental health insurance, has died. He was 88.
Amos died after an illness late yesterday in Columbus, Georgia, where the company is based, said Jon Sullivan, an Aflac spokesman. He was chairman emeritus, and still visited the insurer regularly after retiring in 2001.
Along with his brothers William and John, Paul started American Family Life Insurance Co. in 1955, according to the insurer’s website. The company, which became known as Aflac in the late 1980s, soon introduced a policy designed to cover expenses for people with cancer, marketing it to groups of employees at their firms.
Aflac, now led by Paul’s son, Chief Executive Officer Daniel P. Amos, 62, entered Japan in the 1970’s. The country now accounts for about three quarters of the firm’s business.
“My father was a consummate businessman who led with compassion and dignity,” the CEO said in a statement. “He was a straight-shooter who believed in the simple tenets of honesty and integrity.”
Paul was the last survivor among the three co-founders, Sullivan said. In addition to his son, he’s survived by his wife Jean; Paul S. Amos II, his grandson and Aflac’s president; and granddaughter Lauren Amos. He has four great-grandchildren, the insurer said.
Paul Shelby Amos was born in Enterprise, Alabama, to John Shelby Amos and the former Helen Mullins, according to a biography of his brother, John, by Seymour Shubin. Paul Amos was the youngest of three boys. His father, the town postmaster, sold insurance on weekends and served one term in the state legislature.
Paul served in the U.S. Coast Guard from 1944 to 1946, and then worked at his family’s dime store business, Aflac said. He never attended college, and later was awarded honorary degrees from Cumberland College, Columbus State University and Asbury Theological Seminary.
At Aflac, where he was known as Mr. Paul, Amos managed sales in Alabama and West Florida, and oversaw marketing, according to the company’s statement. He later took on the titles of president and chairman.
Paul developed Aflac’s marketing approach, pitching the company’s insurance to groups of employees and deducting the premiums from their paychecks, according to Deputy Chief Financial Officer Ken Janke, who started at Aflac in 1985.
“It proved to be a very efficient way for our sales force to go out and reach tens of thousands of consumers,” Janke said today by phone. “He was so instrumental in building our U.S. business.”
Aflac’s rules give additional rights to longer-term investors. Dan Amos controlled 1.7 percent of the stock and 8.5 percent of the votes as of Feb. 26, according to a regulatory filing.
Under Dan Amos, who became CEO in 1990, Aflac’s total return was more than 4,800 percent through Dec. 31, the insurer said in its 2014 proxy filing. That’s almost six times the gain of the Standard & Poor’s 500 Index in the period.
The insurer is known for its use of a talking white duck in advertisements. The bird’s first commercial aired in the U.S. in 2000 and in Japan in 2003. The insurer changed its logo to include the duck two years later.
--With assistance from Charles W. Stevens in New York.