AIG Extracted From The Government, or What A Recovery Should Look Like

Look, lets face it. Few people on the planet could have done what Bob Benmosche has done over at AIG. Maybe no one else could have pulled this off, given the situation AIG was in and the constraints set up against his success. The more you know of the story, the more you realize that leadership matters, a lot.

This from Bloomberg today:

American International Group Inc. (AIG), the insurer that bristled at U.S. pay curbs, is nearing an end to Treasury Department compensation limits as Chief Executive Officer Robert Benmosche winds down a taxpayer bailout. The U.S. stake fell to about 21 percent from 53 percent in the largest sale of the insurer’s stock, the Treasury said yesterday. The department said it will raise at least $18 billion in the sale, with AIG repurchasing $5 billion.


The U.S. has recovered its full $182.3 billion commitment to AIG under the bailout after Treasury’s latest sale. The profit includes results from the Federal Reserve portion of the rescue, such as a credit line and the purchase of mortgage- linked securities. Treasury has exceeded its break-even cost of about $28.73 in each of five share sales, with the stock priced at $32.50 in yesterday’s offering.


“It’s clear that the government won’t lose money on AIG, whereas that was viewed as a certainty just two years ago,” Gary Townsend, head of Hill-Townsend Capital LLC, wrote in an e- mail. “TARP was our government operating at its best. The subsequent involvement in the minutia of companies’ compensation practices was government regulation at its worst.”

But Bob may well be remembered best for his 2009 quote, that, if you didn’t hear him say it out loud, or if you didn’t have his voice in your head from the hundreds of other times he said similar things to assembled employee groups, you could completly misunderstand…

“If you want me, you can have me, but you’ve got to pay. And you have to pay a lot, not because I need the money,” Benmosche told AIG employees in 2009. “But the money is about what I am worth, and what my job is worth to be your leader. And that sets the tone for all of you in this room.”

What he was talking about, what Bob always talked about, was excellence, personal excellence and personal responsibility. These are kind of old fashioned ideas right now (Washington, DC, I’m looking at you), but, man, what these ideas can accomplish when people just do their best and stop manufacturing excuses.

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