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Body guards: a growing number of celebrities are protecting their livelihoods by insuring their physical assets.

Key Points

* A number of celebrities have had various body parts insured to protect against injury or illness.

* Celebrities' legs have been a popular body part to insure.

* Lloyd's of London has issued many of the celebrity policies, with such clients as Billy Joel, the Rolling Stones, and Michael Flatley.

* Most celebrity policies protect against either permanent total disability without hope of improvement or temporary total disability.

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Next time you spot your favorite actor, actress or professional athlete in the media, take a closer look at his or her best features--chances are they're insured.

Over the years, a growing number of celebrities have had various body parts insured to protect against injury or illness. Supermodel Heidi Klum is the newest member of the group. Klum's role as a spokeswoman for German electronics company Braun's Soft-Perfection Epilator prompted the company to protect its assets by insuring the model's legs for nearly 52 million.

Policies to protect celebrities began more than 80 years ago when silent film star Ben Turpin, known for his crossed eyes, was asked to take out a $20,000 policy against his eyes becoming uncrossed. Since then, such policies have included:

* a $50,000 policy insuring crooner Jimmy Durante's famous nose;

* a $1 million insurance protection on German movie actress Marlene Dietrich's voice;

* 4 million [pounds sterling] (about $7.5 million) of insurance coverage on comic actor Ken Dodd's teeth;

* $6 million coverage for singer Bruce Springsteen's voice, and

* a $5 million policy for supermodel Claudia Schiffer's face.

Celebrities' legs, however, have had a leg up over other body parts being insured. Actress Betty Grable was one of the first celebrities to have her famous legs insured for $1 million, thus coining the phrase "million-dollar legs." Dancer Fred Astaire soon followed suit with a $75,000-per-leg insurance policy protection. Actress Jamie Lee Curtis insured her legs for $1 million while advertising for a stockings company, and more recently, soccer legend David Beckham's legs have been insured for 60 million [pounds sterling].

Even the not-so-well-knowns have insured their livelihood. Harvey Lowe, winner of the first World Yo-Yo Contest in 1934, had his hands insured by the Cheerie Yo-Yo Co. for $150,000; British food critic Egon Ronay insured his valuable assets--his taste buds--for $400,000; television chef Antony Worrall Thompson insured his fingers and tongue for 500,000 [pounds sterling] each; a United Kingdom computer games fanatic insured his fingers for 375,000 [pounds sterling] prior to the World Cyber Games; an Australian cricketer insured his moustache for $200,000; and 40 members of the Whiskers Club in Derbyshire, England, insured their beards against fire and theft.

While claims have been virtually nonexistent, the coverage has come in handy in several circumstances, especially on nonappearance policies. Take for instance the Rolling Stones' guitarist Keith Richards. When his plucking finger turned septic, the group was forced to cancel three sold-out concerts. The money was recouped, however, because his finger was insured for $1 million.

Covered by Lloyd's

Lloyd's of London has been at the center of many of the celebrity policies, with clients including Grable, Astaire, Schiffer, supermodel Christy Turlington, singer Billy Joel and the Rolling Stones. The company even issued a $28,000 policy against actress Bette Davis gaining weight. Most recently, the company provided coverage on Celtic dance sensation Michael Flatley's legs for $39.24 million.

And don't forget one of the most popular legends of all times--Santa Claus. In 1993, Lloyd's insured, for an undisclosed amount, the luxuriant and profitable whiskers of Brady White, a sought-after local Santa whose clients included the White House, Macy's, Cartier and Neiman-Marcus.

"We are providing business interruption insurance for service industries," said Jonathan Thomas, active underwriter for Syndicate 1607 with Creechurch International Underwriters, which underwrites Lloyd's celebrity insurance policies. "The bodies of these people are like the machinery on a factory production line. If a piece of highly specialized machinery fails, it may take a long time to source a replacement, and then more time to get the line up and running again. Certainly the investment in that piece will be lost. Time lost in all fields is money and probably nowhere more so than in entertainment and sport where third-party coverages are concerned." Lost career time, he added, is lost money for first-party coverages.

Most celebrity policies protect against either permanent total disability without hope of improvement (usually first-party coverage) or temporary total disability that is generally purchased by those protecting the financial exposure of short-term disability of someone in whom they have invested money or have a contractual obligation, said Thomas. There are generally two forms of cover for celebrities, who include entertainers, high-profile businessmen and women and professional athletes. Genuine protection policies generally protect against lost money in the event a celebrity becomes disabled, thus forcing a show or event to be shut down or delayed. Underwriting criteria for the policies include health history, lost production history of the policy subject and moral hazard, said Thomas. The other coverage includes a modest true risk transfer that's main purpose is public relations, he added. Those policies generally include some disfigurement coverages.

Sports' Special Considerations

One of the policies Thomas underwrote was for St. Louis Cardinals' Mark McGuire. The policy protected against injury to the baseball legend's ankle during his record-breaking home-run season. In 1998, McGuire broke New York Yankees outfielder Roger Maris' 1961 home-run record by hitting 65 homeruns in one season. "This form of disability insurance is a very specialized area of underwriting because you are talking about not even insuring the whole person, but what you are insuring is something another underwriter won't insure," Thomas said. "You are saying that if he is disabled as a result of this ankle, assuming that all the warranties within the policy about how he tapes his ankle and the type of support he has to wear haven't been breached, that the policy will respond." While the amount of cover was undisclosed, Thomas said it was a high-rate policy because McGuire's ankle was in fairly bad condition. The next year, however, Thomas declined to renew the policy because he wasn't going to reduce the terms. "What eventually happened some years later wasn't that his ankle gave out, but that other parts of his body gave out because he was favoring them because of his bad ankle," said Thomas.

Part of the issue with underwriting professional sportsmen, Thomas said, is that underwriters have to work out the Financial aspects of the policy with the insured so it's actually not in the insured's interest to make a claim. "And you can't forget that you have to go through a pretty rigorous underwriting process of the physical aspects of the risk, too," he said.

Insuring the Unusual

Thomas said one of the most unusual policy requests he ever received came from an agent who wanted to insure an undisclosed celebrity's chest hair. Thomas devised a policy that provides men with cover for up to a mutually agreed and justified sum insured for permanent loss of chest hair caused by an accident. According to the policy, insureds filing a claim must have lost 85% of their chest hair, and the loss must be verified by two independent experts. Loss through illness or the hair simply falling out is not covered, nor is hair loss from nuclear contamination, terrorism, mass destruction, war or revolution, snorkeling or hunting on horseback. In addition, fire-eaters are excluded.

Not all celebrity policyholders have two arms and two legs to insure, but rather fins and flippers. Several years ago, Lloyd's insured Gemini, the sea lion that starred in the BBC program Animal Magic, for 5,000 [pounds sterling]. The company also provided 8,000 [pounds sterling] in protection for a killer whale named Namu, who was put on display in a Seattle aquarium after it was captured in the Pacific. One of the covered risks included attempted rescue by other whales.

Learn More

Lloyd's of London A.M. Best Company # 85202

Distribution: Brokers

For ratings and other financial strength information about this company, visit www.ambest.com.
COPYRIGHT 2005 A.M. Best Company, Inc.
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
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Article Details
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Title Annotation:Health/Employee Benefits
Author:Chordas, Lori
Publication:Best's Review
Geographic Code:4EUUK
Date:Mar 1, 2005
Words:1346
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