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Former SBLI chief retires with $8m payment

Robert Sheridan, who worked for SBLI for 22 years, took his retirement benefit as a lump sum.

Bill Brett

Robert Sheridan, who worked for SBLI for 22 years, took his retirement benefit as a lump sum.

When some executives retire, they get a party and a pension. SBLI chief Robert K. Sheridan got an additional $8 million.

Sheridan, who stepped down as chief executive of Savings Bank Life Insurance Co. of Massachusetts in November, received more than $9 million in total compensation last year, up from his usual pay of around $1 million, according to filings with the state Division of Insurance.

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The payment made Sheridan one of the highest paid insurance executives in the state last year, along with the leaders of two insurance giants, ­Massachusetts Mutual Life Insurance Co. of Springfield and Boston-based Liberty Mutual. MassMutual chief executive Roger Crandall earned $11.3 million in total compensation and ­Liberty Mutual chief David H. Long ­received $8.9 million last year, the companies reported last month.

But SBLI spokesmen defended the pay, noting that Sheridan opted to take his retirement benefit as a lump sum rather than as an annuity that pays benefits over many years.

Sheridan worked for the company for 22 years, including 20 as chief executive.

“There is no pension,” said George Regan, a spokesman for the company.

In addition, SBLI officials said the company grew significantly during his tenure. Once focused on Massachusetts, it is now licensed to sell insurance in 49 states and the District of ­Columbia. SBLI had $125 billionof life insurance in force at the end of 2012, 10 times as much as it had when Sheridan became chief executive in 1992. The company also made a $22.6 million profit last year.

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“Bob Sheridan’s retirement package is reflective of his 20-year career as president and CEO of SBLI,” said Sheridan’s replacement, SBLI chief executive Christopher H. Pinkerton, in a statement, “and his accomplishments in building the company from a small, one-state life insurance company into a major national competitor.”

Pinkerton earned $325,860 last year, but he only joined the company as CEO-elect in September and became chief executive in November.

In other filings with state insurance regulators, Boston life insurance giant John Hancock reported that former president James R. Boyle earned $2.2 million in total compensation, up 23 percent from 2011.

Boston-based insurer Safety Insurance Co.’s president, ­David F. Brussard, received $2.3 million last year, down from $3 million in 2011. ­Canton-based Boston Mutual Life Insurance Co.’s chief executive, Paul Petry, earned $2.8 million, down 5 percent from 2011.

Arbella Insurance Group of Quincy, which is mutually owned by its policyholders, reported that former vice president John F. Kittel earned $1.9 million last year (mostly in deferred compensation when he retired) eclipsing the $1.2 million earned by chief executive John F. Donohue. Arbella also reported payments for board members. One director, former Massachusetts attorney general Francis X. Bellotti, a company cofounder, earned more than $455,000.

SBLI, which is owned by dozens of local banks, was originally chartered in 1907 to allow Massachusetts mutual savings banks to sell low-cost life insurance to customers. But in 1992, the company reorganized as a stock-based corporation, which allowed it to begin operating in other states

Until 2010, its advisory board — charged with protecting the interest of policyholders — was appointed by the governor. Members of the advisory panel are now picked by the company’s board of directors.

One of the members of the advisory committee said he wasn’t told about Sheridan’s retirement package, but praised Sheridan’s legacy at the insurer.

“I could never believe anyone could work so hard,” said Glenn Merkel, who was appointed to the committee by former governor Mitt Romney a little over six years ago. “Up until last year, his salary compared humbly to other insurance companies whose executives were making a lot more.”

Todd Wallack can be reached at twallack@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @twallack.

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