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William J. Saake, Renowned Zenith Insurance Claims Executive, Dies At Age 88. Saake was a powerful figure in claims from the late 1970s until his retirement in 2007.
By Lonce Lamonte - April 7, 2020

William J. Saake, more commonly known as Bill Saake, died on January 31st 2020.  He succumbed to complications following surgery.  He was 88 years old.

Saake was hired by Stanley Zax, Zenith’s former Chief Executive Officer, to head up the claims department.  Zenith in 1978 was financially ailing and Stanley Zax was hired then to bring The Zenith out of receivership.  Bill Saake was hired shortly after Zax took the CEO helm and rose to Senior Vice President of Claims.   

Bill Saake spent his entire career after 1978 with The Zenith up until his retirement in 2007.  Zenith prospered at the hands of Stanley Zax and Bill Saake and other executives as a monolingual workers’ compensation carrier based in Woodland Hills, California.  The dynamic and notorious Stanley Zax as CEO managed to pull Zenith up from its bootstraps and out of financial straits into profitability. 

Thomas Witt, the former claims manager of The Zenith claims office in Fresno, California from 1978 to 2005, stated, “Bill Saake was a great leader with integrity, and a model executive who earned the trust of superiors and subordinates alike.  His high level of analytical insight, even-handedness, and knowledge of the workers’ compensation system made him an icon of the industry.”

Saake grew up in the San Francisco Bay Area and met his wife, Marilyn, while they were both attending college there.  After college, Bill and Marilyn married and then Bill enlisted in the Army.  They spent his tour of duty in Germany.

After Germany, they returned to San Francisco where Bill pursued a law degree at the University of Berkeley Law School.  Following that, Bill began his career in insurance. 

Throughout his career, Bill was known for his extensive claims knowledge, integrity, and garnered the admiration of those who knew and worked with him.   

Bill and Marilyn enjoyed travel and took many trips to Europe.  Bill was also a passionate fan of baseball.  He had played in college and was devoted to the Oakland A’s. 

Bill will be interred at the San Luis Rey Mission next to his late son, Tom.

He is survived by his widow, Marilyn, three daughters, a daughter-in-law, and several grandchildren. 

 

Pat Guttormsen, who worked for Bill Saake from 1996 until 2007, contributed to this obituary. 

Thomas Witt, who was the claims manager of Zenith in Fresno from 1978 to 2005, also contributed to this memorial. 

 

Copyright adjustercom and Lonce Lamonte, all rights reserved.  Lonce Lamonte, journalist and editor, adjustercom, lonce@adjustercom.com

 

 

 
 

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