American International Group Inc.’s Robert Benmosche became the fourth consecutive chief executive officer to preside over a stock decline at the bailed-out insurer.
AIG fell $1.56 to $26.50 in the four days ended Jan. 22, the ninth decline in the past 10 weeks of trading on the New York Stock Exchange. The insurer ended at $27.14 on Aug. 7, the last trading day before Benmosche replaced Edward Liddy. The shares have dropped 98 percent under the four CEOs who ran the firm since Maurice “Hank” Greenberg resigned in 2005.
AIG’s five-month slide nullifies the rally Benmosche sparked in his first weeks by promising to rebuild what was once the world’s biggest insurer. In the year before his arrival, New York-based AIG reported the biggest loss in U.S. corporate history and accepted government bailouts valued at $182.3 billion in exchange for preferred stock and debt that subordinated common stockholders.
“Regardless of who is at the helm, there are some numbers here that can’t be ignored,” said Catherine Seifert, an equity analyst with Standard & Poor’s. “If you’re going to be at the bottom end of the capital structure you need to know that there’s going to be something left for you” as a common shareholder.
Investors suffered under each CEO since Greenberg ended a reign of more than three decades amid a probe by then-New York Attorney General Eliot Spitzer. The stock fell by almost half in three years under Martin Sullivan before he was ousted by the board in June 2008. Robert Willumstad, whose three-month term ended when he delivered the firm to the government, saw shares drop more than 90 percent.
Out of Retirement
Liddy, called out of retirement by the government after a career at home and auto insurer Allstate Corp., reported losses of $61.7 billion in the fourth quarter of 2008 and $4.35 billion in the first quarter of 2009 before returning to profit in the second. Shares fell by a third during his tenure, which lasted less than a year.
Benmosche took control of a company whose funds had been drained by soured mortgage investments and bad derivative bets. The company was selling assets to repay its aid package, and top employees were fleeing to rivals. Some who remain are subject to pay curbs as a result of the bailout, and have been criticized by politicians and regulators who blamed the company for contributing to the credit crisis.
“Benmosche had a very tough hand,” said Paul Newsome, an analyst with Sandler O’Neill & Partners LP. “Not only did he have a company that needed a lot of work, but he was facing an extremely skeptical stock market.” Mark Herr, a spokesman for AIG, declined to comment.
Steven Udvar-Hazy, the chief executive officer of AIG’s aircraft leasing unit, may leave the company as early as this week, the Wall Street Journal reported yesterday, citing unidentified people familiar with the situation. John Plueger, International Lease Finance Corp.’s president and chief operating officer, may be named Udvar-Hazy’s successor, the newspaper said.
Udvar-Hazy, 63, was replaced last month as chairman of the business he founded 37 years ago by Douglas Steenland, a former airline CEO. AIG is considering selling or breaking up the world’s largest aircraft lessor.
Getting a Raise
Benmosche, a former CEO at life insurer MetLife Inc., negotiated a $7 million annual salary, compared with Liddy’s $1. He fought for higher pay for managers after his predecessor asked some employees to return a portion of their bonuses. Benmosche told staff that regulators were to blame for the insurer’s meltdown and said he would get tough in talks with New York Attorney General Andrew Cuomo over compensation.
“The worst thing that will ever happen to him is when he and I meet in the room and I close the door,” Benmosche, 65, said of Cuomo, according to a record obtained by Bloomberg. Cuomo was “unbelievably wrong” for demanding AIG employees return their bonuses and promising to publish the names of staff who didn’t comply, Benmosche said. Benmosche later apologized for the comments.
AIG under Liddy planned to repay the government’s original September 2008 bailout of $85 billion in two years and hired Paula Reynolds as chief restructuring officer to raise the funds by selling businesses and other assets. Reynolds, the former Safeco Corp. CEO who sold that firm to Liberty Mutual Group Inc., left AIG after Benmosche took over.
Benmosche, while still considering asset sales, has said he wants to slow the pace of deals to allow the units to generate profits that will boost their value. That objective is complicated by clients that have scaled back coverage in the recession and by rivals that are cutting prices to win business.