Monday, June 16, 2008

Chairman and CEO

More on AIG. Robert Willumstad is now chairman and CEO of AIG.

Willumstad isn't someone who was groomed within the company, one of Hank Greenberg's protoges. He was brought onto the board of directors and made its chairman (nothing like starting at the top) only a little more than two years ago, and almost a tear AFTER Greenberg's departure.

RW comes from Citigroup, where he was the chief operating officer and a candidate for the CEO post, though that never materialized.

A possible problem here is that although banking and insurance are related industries, they are sufficiently distinct (different sets of regulators and so forth) that some might question the relevance of RW's Citi experience.

At any rate, his appointment may head off any proxy fight. Greenberg remains an important stockholder -- sufficiently important that any new CEO will have to make peace with him -- will have to "reach out," as the cliche goes.

Willumstad, according to reports, has already done so.

In a letter he wrote in May, Greenberg stated the reasons for his dissatisfaction thus: "The company's problems are more than financial and extend far beyond its subprime credit exposure or approach to capital management. Core businesses are also deteriorating. U.S. life operations are stagnant. The company has lost its leading and unique market positions in China and Japan. The life business in Asia had been a crown jewel, but now the company's position has eroded. In Taiwan, the company must now find up to an additional $1 billion to cover losses. To what extent are Taiwan losses due to regulatory changes, as has been suggested, and to what extent are they attributable to the failure to hedge certain non-Taiwanese dollar denominated investments?"

Not a bad summary.

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