20th Century Insurance Shuffles High Command

G. Robert Thompson, 57, has been demoted from the presidency of 20th Century Insurance and was named executive vice president on a par with Neil H. Ashley, 63, who was promoted from group vice president to executive vice president.

Thompson and Ashley will report directly to the company's chairman, Louis W. Foster, 73. A spokesman for the Woodland Hills-based insurance company, which sells auto and homeowners coverage, declined to elaborate except to say that the changes were designed to help the firm handle its rapid growth.

Nevertheless, one analyst took a dim view of the changes.

"It's hard to believe this is good," said Joseph Grochmal of Conning & Co., a Hartford brokerage firm specializing in insurance stocks.

He took the announcement as a signal that 20th Century's soon-to-be-announced second-quarter earnings will be disappointing, discounting the company's stated reasons for the management restructuring.

Thompson joined the company in 1974 as vice president for administration and was named president in 1983. Ashley joined in 1983 as group vice president and general counsel. Foster founded the company in 1956 and preceded Thompson as president.

20th Century Industries, a holding company whose only subsidiary is 20th Century Insurance, earned $6.8 million, or 31 cents a share, on net premiums written of $81.9 million for the first quarter. In the 1985 first quarter, earnings were $4.0 million, or 18 cents a share, on net premiums written of $59.4 million.

The per share figures were adjusted for a 2-for-1 stock split on March 18. Net premiums written represent the revenue taken in from new insurance policies.

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