Former AIG head Benmosche dies; led insurer after bailout – Reuters


(Adds quotes, background on financial crisis)

By Luciana Lopez and Jennifer Ablan

NEW YORK Feb 27 (Reuters) – Robert Benmosche, who headed
insurer American International Group after a massive
government bailout at the height of the financial crisis, died
on Friday at 70, the company said in a statement.

Benmosche, who was president and chief executive officer of
AIG between August 2009 and September 2014, died at NYU Langone
Medical Center in New York City. He had undergone treatment for
lung cancer since 2010.

“Bob was a brilliant man who brought tremendous leadership,
energy, passion, and tenacity to his job. At AIG, we will honor
his legacy by continuing to focus on integrity and performance.
He will be deeply missed,” said Robert S. Miller, chairman of
AIG’s board of directors.

Benmosche is credited with steering AIG through the
turbulent period following its near collapse and rescue by the
U.S. government. During his tenure, AIG fully repaid the $182.3
billion government bailout it received in 2008 to stave off
bankruptcy.

He faced intense scrutiny and was sharp-tongued at times,
referring to federal officials as “those crazies down in
Washington.”

Benmosche also criticized then-New York State Attorney
General Andrew Cuomo, who was looking into controversial
retention bonuses paid to AIG staff after the bailout. Benmosche
said Cuomo “doesn’t deserve to be in government” and had acted
like a “criminal.” AIG later apologized for his remarks.

Critics often likened the former CEO to a bull in a china
shop – a description Benmosche did not dispute.

“I can be, I can break things,” he said in an interview at
his villa in Croatia in August 2009, shortly after taking the
AIG job.

Benmosche pointed to public criticism of the company during
the crisis, which kicked off the worst recession in the United
States in 70 years.

“A lot of (employees) feel hurt, embarrassed, a lot of
people have lived in fear because of what I call lynch mobs with
pitchforks,” he said in the Reuters interview.

His defense of AIG employees won him praise from his
workers. After Benmosche was diagnosed with cancer in late 2010,
employees would tear up when discussing his illness.

Benmosche was CEO of MetLife Inc from 1998 to 2006.
He came out of retirement to lead AIG.

Maurice “Hank” Greenberg, who built AIG into a global
financial-services powerhouse during nearly 40 years at its
helm, told Reuters on Friday that he had recommended Benmosche
to the U.S. government when it was looking for a new chief.

“He was a good man, strong, knowledgeable and honorable –
everything we look for in a CEO,” said Greenberg, who was chair
of AIG from 1967 to 2005, before being forced out.

Benmosche announced his intention to leave AIG in June of
last year. He left AIG in September, and was succeeded as
president and CEO by Peter Hancock.

(Reporting by Luciana Lopez and Jennifer Ablan; writing by
David Gaffen; editing by Christian Plumb)

Former AIG head Benmosche dies; led insurer after bailout – Reuters

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