Robert Benmosche, the combative former chief executive officer of American International Group Inc. who led the insurer, once the world’s largest, to repay a $182.3 billion taxpayer bailout, has died. He was 70.
He died on Friday at NYU Langone Medical Center in New York following treatment for lung cancer, AIG said in a statement. The insurer announced in October 2010 that Benmosche had cancer, and the CEO said last August that he’d moved up his departure after his prognosis worsened. Benmosche was replaced by Peter Hancock on Sept. 1.
Benmosche came out of retirement in August 2009 to take over a company reeling from losses on failed housing-market bets, and led the insurer for half a decade. He put New York- based AIG on the road to repaying taxpayers and along the way, the always-tan, silver-haired Benmosche became the most outspoken AIG chief since Maurice “Hank” Greenberg, who was forced out in 2005 as the insurer was investigated for accounting irregularities.
“I create so much trouble, don’t I?,” Benmosche told employees at a meeting shortly after he started. “That’s my job.”
Benmosche sold major divisions and focused on U.S. life insurance and global property-casualty coverage. He also sparred with government overseers, rebelled against U.S.-applied pay caps that he said limited the firm’s ability to retain staff, threatened to quit at least twice and succeeded in ousting then- Chairman Harvey Golub with a “him-or-me” showdown.
“Nobody gave AIG a chance back in 2009,” Steve Miller, AIG’s non-executive chairman, said in a September 2014 interview on Bloomberg Television. From Benmosche, “I have learned, one more time, the power of greater leadership, even in the most disastrous of circumstances,” Miller said.
Benmosche was AIG’s fifth chief in five years, finally bringing stability to the top job after a succession of leaders felled by market losses and the bailout. The CEO revolving door after Greenberg included Martin Sullivan, Robert Willumstad and Edward Liddy.
“He’s the best they’ve had since I left the company,” Greenberg said of Benmosche in a 2010 interview with Fox Business Network. Greenberg, who ran AIG for about 38 years, had succeeded Cornelius Vander Starr and took the company public in 1969.