ATG Announces Merger Agreement with Guaranteed Rate

Originally sent via email January 5, 2022

Dear ATG Agents and Shareholders,

Happy New Year. It is, at once, a time to reflect on the past and to look ahead to new opportunities. We invite you to watch the video below or keep reading for an important message.

Peter Birnbaum Speech screenshotOur Storied History | In 1964, our founder Stan Balbach had a vision to create a "guaranty fund," a title underwriter owned by members of the Illinois Bar. He formed a band of lawyers to fight back against commercial title underwriters that were pushing lawyers out of real estate transactions. Stan envisioned the creation of this “guaranty fund” to give lawyers the ability to issue title opinions backed by an insurance underwriter. The catch phrase was: The best of both worlds.

Over the years, more than 2,500 law firms invested in the "fund." Because of Stan’s early vision and the enthusiasm and support of the practicing bar, ATG has made an indelible mark on the legal profession and the consumers we serve. David took on Goliath, and won.

The new year is the perfect time to applaud Stan’s vision, celebrate our success, and embrace our future.

The Next Chapter | We have exciting news that will take our beloved company into a new chapter in our storied history.

The ATG Board and Senior Management have debated issues related to ATG’s ownership for several years. In the end, we concluded that a change in ownership was not only advisable, but necessary.

ATG has entered into an agreement to merge with Chicago-based Guaranteed Rate, one of the largest mortgage lenders in the United States.

The transaction is pending required approvals, including a vote of ATG shareholders, attorney members who joined ATG between 1964 and 2007 and their successors. We expect to close the merger transaction in March 2022.

We did not come to this decision easily. For many of you ATG is a family. A family I have had the pleasure of serving for more than 40 years.

We’re joining forces with an organization that has mastered direct-to-consumer technology that breaks down and simplifies complex processes and puts customers first. Guaranteed Rate sees ATG and our lawyer-centric model as the organization that can help grow the title insurance segment of its business both locally and nationally, while adhering to ATG’s mission.

The ATG Board and Management have been considering this shift for several years. We looked for good-fit partners, with the following three goals in mind:

  • Unlock shareholder value;
  • Continue preserving the lawyer’s role in real estate transactions; and
  • Grow the business through collaboration.

Read on for more detail on each of the three goals. I also encourage you to watch our video for a more in-depth message.

Unlock Shareholder Value

After we raised enough money in the “guaranty fund” to qualify as a title underwriter, we continued to sell shares to individual lawyers and firms. For a variety of reasons, we stopped selling shares in 2007. Today, we have roughly 1,900 shareholders; because there is no market for those shares, shareholders have been unable to unlock the significant increase in their value. We felt it was unfair to those lawyers to keep the shares locked up, especially considering that with each passing day more shareholders retire, with no logical way to redeem their ownership interests.

Our many years of success have made those shares appreciate significantly. No matter when you bought stock, its current value is many multiples of what you paid. Shareholders will soon receive individualized letters notifying them of the number of shares held and the probable range of the price per share they will receive.

Continue our Mission of Preserving the Lawyer’s Role in Real Estate Transactions by Adapting to Changing Consumer Expectations

Over our 57-year history ATG has generated at least $1.5 billion in revenue for practicing lawyers. It is essential that we not only preserve but build upon that success, for your sake as well as that of the next generation of real estate lawyers and the clients we serve.

For the past several years we have been speaking to you about our innovations as well as the need for lawyers to innovate to remain relevant to the consuming public. Guaranteed Rate is an innovator.

Victor Ciardelli founded Guaranteed Rate in 2000 with the mission of delivering more value to mortgage customers than any other bank or mortgage company. He and his colleagues built the company on the principles of low rates, groundbreaking technology, complete transparency, excellent customer service, and a quick, easy mortgage experience.

The company would go on to launch the world's first digital mortgage to simplify the application process and have it completed in as little as 15 minutes. Later they introduced FlashClose™, another digital innovation that allows some paperwork to be reviewed and signed ahead of closing, saving customers and real estate attorneys time at the closing table.

Guaranteed Rate has had an impressive record of growth, becoming Chicago's largest independent mortgage lender within its first three years. The last ten years have seen year-over-year double-digit growth. In 2020, Guaranteed Rate funded more than $73 billion in mortgages and now has more than 10,000 employees in 850 offices across the United States.

Grow the Business through Collaboration

Like ATG, almost all Guaranteed Rate’s top management are long term employees, many of whom started in regional roles or as loan officers.

Our two organizations have many complementary skill sets that, when combined, will allow ATG to grow nationally and even internationally. Just like our early mantra: The best of both worlds.

Guaranteed Rate fully supports our lawyer-centric model and views ATG as the linchpin to the national growth of the title insurance segment of its business. Working together we believe we can exponentially grow the company far beyond our current $80 million in annual revenues.

ATG Leadership | Many will ask if I am staying on as the President and CEO. The answer is yes. I cherish my service to you, and it is paramount to my legacy to ensure that the long-term interests of our beloved ATG family are served. The rest of the Senior Team will be joining me as we embark on this new and exciting venture.

We Encourage You to Engage with Us | ATG agents and shareholders are an engaged and active crowd – we know you will have many questions about this news and invite you to check these resources for more information:

  • Video message;
  • Online FAQ library plus regular communications to your inbox; and
  • Online Town Hall Meetings.


Monday, January 10, 2022 - 12 Noon via Zoom
Watch your email to register!

Questions? | Email us, we will answer as many of your inquiries as possible:

We appreciate your ongoing support and look forward to greeting the next phase of ATG’s history with you.

Peter J. Birnbaum
President and Chief Executive Officer

[Last update: 1-6-22]

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Posted on: Wed, 01/05/2022 - 1:29pm