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With a soft market making it more difficult to compete, and the economy contracting, it was only a matter of time before consolidation started heating up in the property-casualty industry, and 2008 saw more than its share of major deals.

For one, there was Liberty Mutual’s purchase of Safeco, announced in April, with a $6.2 billion price tag. Safeco became part of Liberty’s Agency Markets unit, with the combined entity represented by some 15,000 independent agents nationwide.

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