Arthur L. "Art" Williams Jr. is an insurance executive living in Palm Beach, Florida. He is the founder of A.L. Williams & Associates, known as Primerica Financial Services since 1991.
Early life and education
Born on April 26, 1942 in Cairo, Georgia. He obtained his bachelor's degree in arts and sciences at Mississippi State University in Starkville, Mississippi and his master's degree in science from Auburn University. From his early days in high school, Art always aspired to be a professional football coach.
In 1965, Williams's father suddenly died of a heart attack. He had a whole life insurance policy that left their family underinsured. Five years later Art Williams's cousin Ted Harrison introduced to him the concept of term life insurance, a much less expensive and simpler alternative to whole life which at that time was almost never sold and rarely heard of outside the insurance industry. Williams was taken aback by the idea of not knowing that there was a choice when buying life insurance and described the whole conversation as "disturbing," recalling his father's death and referring to the fact that people had no idea of such a product. Believing that families were paying too much for whole life policies that left them poor in the wallet and deeply underinsured, Williams joined his cousin at ITT Financial Services in 1970. In June 1973, six months before ITT went out of business, he left and went on board with Waddell & Reed, another BTID company that saw early success.
Williams gained momentum at W&R and became regional vice-president (RVP) the same year, having a sales force that covered 6 states. Despite the numerous benefits of working at W&R in comparison to ITT, it became clear to Williams that with a corporate structure in which the executives, not the sales force, owned the company, financial decisions would always have priority over the clients and there would be limits on how much the company could grow.
On February 10, 1977 Williams and 85 associates founded their own company A.L. Williams & Associates on a simple philosophy: "Buy Term and Invest the Difference." He convinced many customers to switch from their conventional whole-life insurance to term policies. The company's rapid growth to the largest seller of life insurance in the U.S. was enhanced by his emphasis on "pushing up" his people. He was one of the first to have weekly video conferences on the company's private television broadcast system. This allowed him to personally speak to each of his 100,000 plus agents and to create a family feeling that inspired them to become Financially Independent. Today, what was formerly ALW Marketing is now Primerica Financial Services.
Williams has made a large portion of his fortune from investments, particularly in Citigroup, of which he owns 21 million shares.
Williams purchased and entirely renovated the old Edwards Inn and Spa in Highlands, North Carolina spending nearly 40 million. The inn went from being relatively unknown to the #4 hotel according to Tripadvisor in 2012.
In 1995, Williams was granted an expansion franchise in the Canadian Football League in Birmingham, Alabama. He named the team the Birmingham Barracudas. The 'Cudas made a good account of themselves on the field, finishing third in their division and making the playoffs. However, the team's attendance fell through the floor after the start of college football season. Even though the CFL moved their late-season home games to Sundays so as not to compete directly against Alabama or Auburn, the team's September and October gates were so abysmal that Williams lost anywhere from $4-10 million on the team. After only one season, he decided to get out and sold the team to interests who planned to move the team to Shreveport, Louisiana. However, the CFL folded the team before it ever played another down.
In 1998, Williams bought the National Hockey League's Tampa Bay Lightning, beating out Detroit Pistons owner William Davidson. Although Williams knew very little about hockey, he wasted little time clearing away a massive debt load that he'd inherited from previous owner Kokusai Green.
Williams was often the butt of jokes from his fellow NHL owners due to his thick Georgia accent and his fundamentalist Christian views (he does not smoke or drink, and has been known to use words like "dadgummit" in place of profanity). Some of them called him "Jed Clampett" behind his back.
Williams sold the Lightning to Davidson after only nine months of ownership after losing $20 million—more than he expected to lose in two years.
As of 2006, he ranks number 512 on the Forbes list of the "World's Billionaires" with an estimated wealth of $1.5 billion.
As of 2008, he ranks number 843 on the Forbes list of the "World's Billionaires" with an estimated wealth of $1.4 billion.
He wrote five books:
- Common Sense
- Pushing Up People
- All You Can Do Is All You Can Do, But All You Can Do Is Enough (The New York Times bestseller list in 1988)
- The A. L. Williams Way
- Coach, The A. L. Williams Story.
Art Williams's best known speech is "Just Do It". made to the organization of National Religious Broadcasters in 1987.