INSURANCE: Karl the Magic Man

When U.S. builders set a new record last year by starting 2.1 million homes, no one was happier than Max H. Karl, a neat, bespectacled Milwaukee lawyer. With the upsurge in housing providing the push, Karl's MGIC Investment Corp. put a huge dent in what was once the sole domain of the Federal Government: home loan insurance. Today MGIC (pronounced magic) has $6.5 billion worth of insurance in force, compared with $12 billion insured by the Federal Housing Administration.

That is an especially impressive record considering that Karl, now 61, started only 14 years ago, with $250,000 borrowed from friends,...

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