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Edmund “Ted” Kelly says he never dreamed of being a CEO, but he ended up becoming one of the most successful—and outspoken—leaders ever of an insurance company.

Kelly’s reinvention of Liberty Mutual is nothing short of remarkable: He transformed a super-regional player into a highly diversified and global powerhouse—the third-largest insurer by net premiums written on NU’s Top 100 list last year, behind only State Farm and Allstate.

Kelly’s personal story starts on a farm in Ireland as the fifth of 10 children born to a “very, very poor family,” he recently told a group of students at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, where he graduated with a doctorate in mathematics.

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