Greenberg campaigns to shake up AIG two years after being ousted as CEO


Mon, Nov 05, 2007 - Page 10

Maurice "Hank" Greenberg, ousted as chief executive officer of American International Group Inc (AIG) two years ago, began a campaign to shake up the insurer's management after the stock fell 18 percent this year.

Greenberg, 82, wants to talk with other investors about the company's leadership, its stock performance and the possibility of selling units, he said in a filing. Greenberg is AIG's largest shareholder controlling about 12 percent through C.V. Starr & Co, Starr International Co and his personal holdings, according to Bloomberg data.

"If he finds enough allies, Mr Greenberg's initiative may give him a way to reassert influence on the company he built," Donald Light, analyst at Celent LLC, a Boston-based financial research firm, said in an e-mail.

AIG's board forced his retirement in March 2005 two months before then-New York attorney general Eliot Spitzer sued the company in an accounting probe. Greenberg, who ran AIG for 38 years, is still fighting a suit begun by Spitzer, who accused him of being involved in improper transactions to hide losses and inflate reserves held to pay claims.

"AIG has made tremendous progress over the past two-and-a-half years and has established a strong culture of good corporate governance," spokesman Chris Winans said. "The company is pursuing the right strategies, and the board and management are united in their commitment to building shareholder value."

Greenberg's spokesman Ken Frydman declined to comment.

"There are opportunities to significantly improve" AIG's performance, Greenberg said in the letter.

Among them are "strategic alternatives," he said.

The letter was filed after the close of regular markets. Shares gained 3.9 percent in extended trading at 7:29pm on Friday AIG has shed about US$32 billion in market value this year.

"It's a huge company, it would be hard to sell it," said David Dreman, who oversees US$22 billion as chairman of Dreman Value Management LLC and sold most of his AIG shares in the past year, in an interview. "It would be a very bad time to sell a financial company."

AIG agreed to pay US$1.64 billion last year to settle probes by Spitzer, the US Securities and Exchange Commission and the Justice Department. The insurer also restated 2000 to 2005 earnings lower by US$3.4 billion.

The New York case against Greenberg was narrowed last year to four civil fraud allegations.

He has denied any wrongdoing and said the company unnecessarily restated under pressure from regulators.