Sunday, November 4, 2007

Greenberg to Return From Elba

I can just imagine that vein on Hank Greenberg's forehead. It's been throbbing painfully for two years now, ever since the board at American International Group forced him out as CEO and chairman.

He had turned that insurance company into a financial empire, and he must have felt some proprietary interest in it. Yet those who had been riding along on his coattails turned on him at the first whiff of scandal. That, at least, must be how it seemed to him.

Now, he may think of himself as a certain ex-Emperor on Elba, about to make his return. Such I infer, anyway, from Friday's news.

Greenberg has filed a document with the Securities and Exchange Commission that says that he and entities he controls, believe "there are opportunities to significantly improve the Issuer's [AIG's] performance and strategic direction, as well as the value of their investment."

The filing commits Greenberg to nothing, not even to "holding discussions" with other shareholders, a startlingly radicial possibility it mentions.

Why does one file a document with the SEC that says in effect, "I'm not all that happy with the return I'm getting and I might talk to some others to see if they feel the same way"? People who hold large chunks of stock in a publicly owned company are required to keep the public, and so the management of that company, apprised of their intentions, so there are no takeovers-by-ambush.

Despite all the cautious lawyerly wording, then, it appears that Greenberg is setting the stage and some sort of struggle for control may be in the offing.

Cool. Those of you fans who are new to corporate skullduggery might now have a lot of questions. Like: how important is AIG? What was the scandal that pressed Greenberg to give up the corner office? What resources does he have if he is in fact seeking to march on Paris? Why does he file this just now? I hope to address these in coming days.

No comments: