John Ritenour, who co-founded the Insurance Office of America (IOA) in 1988, describes insurance as anticipating, preparing for, and covering the risks his clients incur in their day-to-day life. He was one of the first insurance executives to focus on serving the needs of niche clients, such as professional and amateur sports organizations.
Early on, entrepreneur John Ritenour helped to develop the IOA Sports Practice to fill what he saw as a gap in business-to-business (B2B) insurance in the sports industry. Ritenour developed customized insurance plans for sports teams and leagues, entertainment venues, municipalities, and the general sports business community.
Business leaders in the sporting industry know they can depend on IOA to meet their unique needs. To continue this legacy of service, John Ritenour passed along everything he knew to his son, Heath Ritenour, who now serves as CEO and chairman of the company.
John Ritenour acknowledges that providing sports teams with a customized insurance plan can be complex and that every sport presents its own unique risks and complications. The ability to assess risks in professional and amateur sports requires insurance professionals to have a thorough understanding of the sport along with its business model.
Sports teams come to IOA to mitigate the huge risks they face with a variety of issues. Two common examples are serious injuries to players or fans and lost revenue from canceled games. The recent COVID-19 pandemic demonstrated that teams could lose their entire season through no fault of their own. A situation this dire could even bankrupt a team unless it has the right insurance coverage.
Team executives are not necessarily thinking about the blind spots that put their entire organization at risk. That is the job of the insurance professionals at IOA. After John Ritenour launched the IOA Sports Practice, he considered educating his clients about potential risks to be one of his most important duties. Clients could then decide for themselves whether they wanted to purchase insurance coverage for that risk or not.
John Ritenour and his son understand that their job is not just to sell clients an insurance policy but rather to educate them on the risk. The job of everyone who works at IOA is to operate in the capacity of a risk manager, not a sales agent. Once a sports team or other professional organization decides to purchase insurance for a specific risk, insurance agents must find the best policy for them and customize it as much as possible.
IOA has operated successfully for decades now. After having supported teams throughout the pandemic, IOA leadership feels confident that the company can continue to offer risk-reduction services at an exceptional value.
John Ritenour had been a passionate sports fan for most of his life before the idea came to him to combine two of his major interests, sports and insurance. He launched the IOA Sports Practice program slowly, focusing on building professional relationships and offering top-notch risk management services. Ritenour did not envision that his small B2B solution would soon become a leading risk management solution for all levels of sports teams across the country. Here are just some of the teams that maintain an ongoing business relationship with IOA:
- Charlotte Hornets
- Jacksonville Jaguars
- Las Vegas Raiders
- Memphis Grizzlies
- Orlando Magic
- Tampa Bay Lightning
- Washington Wizards
John Ritenour has enjoyed the opportunities he has had to connect with college, minor league, and professional teams. The IOA Sports Practice also works with locally organized teams. IOA helps with the insurance needs of teams, players, and organizations representing multiple sports, including baseball, football, golf, hockey, soccer, and swimming.
In addition to ongoing partnerships with the above teams, IOA has provided insurance risk management services to US Club Soccer, and several racing teams. John Ritenour still provides guidance to IOA and is excited to see the plans his son has in store for expanding the sports division. Some possibilities include:
- Expansion into other national governing bodies, such as USA Swimming
- Growing the IOA Sports Practice program beyond the big four of baseball, basketball, football, and racing
- Increasing its presence in the world of amateur sports
The possibilities are truly endless for this innovative and customer-centric company.
Three years ago, the sports industry held a global value of $471 billion. Just under one-third of that value comes from the United States. Each team in the National Basketball Association (NBA) alone is worth at least $1 billion, with many averaging over $2 billion. The value of the sporting industry continues to rise each year, even with the havoc and uncertainty of the pandemic.
Sports organizations that stand to lose at least several million dollars seek a partnership with IOA to protect their value. Most teams prefer to be fully insured against all types of risk, but management does not know how to find the best policies.
Forming a partnership with IOA makes sense because its agents make sure each client has the right insurance. Unfortunately, having the wrong insurance can be just as bad as having no insurance at all. Non Customized policies leave members of the sporting industry with large gaps in coverage that could result in millions of dollars in out-of-pocket expenses.
The Ritenour father-son team always looks for additional ways they can help the sports organizations that trust IOA to find the best possible insurance coverage. This has proven to be a valuable approach. IOA receives business from teams, and the teams receive solid risk management policies at competitive rates.
John and Heath Ritenour have always worked well together as a team. Developing and growing the IOA Sports Practice is just one example of many that shows their dedication to implementing products that fill an unmet need for customers.
The opportunity to develop the sports division presented itself to them when a spokesperson for the Orlando Magic reached out to ask about IOA sponsoring the team. John Ritenour thought it sounded like a great idea, but he questioned why the Magic did not reach out to their existing insurance company with the sponsorship opportunity. He was surprised to learn that the team had done this, but their insurance company turned them down.
As part of a partnership, Heath and John proposed IOA as the official insurance broker for the Orlando Magic. The partnership would involve more than just providing the team with insurance, though. The Ritenours proposed that they hold events in the Orlando community with the Orlando Magic Youth Foundation to raise funds for charities. They also floated the idea of giving away tickets to charity and helping to entertain the Magic’s best customers.
In the proposal to become the team’s new insurance broker, John Ritenour and his son offered to perform what they called a deep dive into the Magic’s existing insurance policies. The Ritenours promised to let the team know if their current policies were appropriate to manage its risks and to find any gaps in coverage and develop a plan to fill the gaps. Administrators of the Orlando Magic liked the idea, which inspired John Ritenour to approach additional sports teams and eventually launch the IOA Sports Practice.
Insurance expert John Ritenour did not always intend to go into the insurance business. However, he knew he was in the right industry after accepting his first position as a door-to-door insurance salesman. He quickly out-performed more experienced agents and realized that he had gained enough skills to start an insurance agency of his own. That is exactly what John Ritenour did, launching what would become Insurance Office of America in 1988, with wife, Valli Ritenour.
IOA has always been a family business. Valli worked alongside John to start and grow the company in Florida. She remained with the company for 30 years, retiring at the same time as John.
Like his father, Heath Ritenour did not think insurance was the right industry for him. He changed his mind after completing an internship at IOA during a summer break from college. Heath saw firsthand what a difference it made to focus on the customer as opposed to only focusing on making the sale. More than 33 years after John and Valli Ritenour started IOA, the company continues to flourish and is one of the largest privately owned insurance brokers in the United States.