Insurance rarely makes for interesting reading, but everyone loves a good technology story.
Oracle Corp. Tuesday agreed to buy one of the fastest-growing companies in the Philadelphia area that you've likely never heard of.
It's called AdminServer Inc., a software company that develops programs used in the insurance business.
The first thing that's surprising is that AdminServer is in Chester. It leases 60,000 square feet of space in what used to be Philadelphia Electric Co.'s Chester power station.
Economically distressed Chester is the furthest thing there is from a high-tech hotbed. But the city does have a low-tax Keystone Opportunity Zone that contains the redeveloped power plant.
When AdminServer moved there from the high-tech zip code of Malvern in 2003, it had 26 employees. The privately held company now employs more than 400.
Started in 1998, AdminServer celebrates its growth, showing up on those annual lists of corporate comets issued by Inc. magazine and Deloitte & Touche. According to figures published by Inc. last fall, AdminServer's revenues rose from $4.6 million in 2003 to $24.2 million in 2006.
(Co-founder Chris Doggett actually used the word "boo-yah" in the company's press release about being named to the 2006 Inc. 500.)
Why has it grown so fast? Insurers, which still run much of their business on computers older than the Internet, apparently really like AdminServer's software that enables them to administer policies more nimbly.
When an industry as rich as insurance wants something you make, you have a hit. Maybe not "Grand Theft Auto IV"-like, but popular just the same in insurance offices around the world.
And if enough businesses want your software, someone like Oracle CEO Larry Ellison will come calling. Redwood Shores, Calif.-based Oracle is a gargantuan business software company that is constantly on the prowl for things to buy.
Buying AdminServer will complement Oracle's own line of insurance industry software. It would not say how much it paid.
Oracle promises that the Chester company's management and employees will form a "dedicated global business unit." Will that be in Chester? Will Oracle really have a growing business unit just down the Blue Route from SAP America Inc., its nemesis in the enterprise resource planning systems business?
AdminServer CEO Rick Connors declined to comment on the deal, referring me to Oracle. An Oracle spokesman did not return a phone call or e-mail.
Previous acquisitions of Philadelphia-area software developers have usually resulted in the shutdown of the the local operations. (Remember Hewlett-Packard's purchase of Bluestone?)
This deal is supposed to close by the end of June. Let's hope on July 1, AdminServer still is conquering the insurance software business from its Chester offices.