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AIG CEO: The Pity Party’s Over, Now Get Back to Work!

By Brian | August 21, 2009 | Share on Facebook

Robert Benmosche, AIG’s new CEO had an internal meeting with his employees on August 4th. This being the Internet age and all, it took all of two weeks for a transcript to make itself available for public consumption. Check out some of these quotes:

  • I don’t liquidate things, I build them. When we get the fair value for [subsidiaries that AIG is considering liquidating], that’s when we’re going to sell them; it’s not going to be before.
  • We believe we will be able to pay back the government and we hope we will be able to do something for our shareholders as well.
  • I have the luxury to say to the government, I’m not going to rush to do this. I’m appalled at how much pressure has been put on all of you [employees] to just sell [businesses] no matter what, because the Fed wants out, or the Treasury wants out. If they want out in a hurry, they shouldn’t have come in in the first place.
  • My first charge is to get the company to operate at the level it used to operate, being the world’s best. The fact is we owe the U.S. government a lot of money and we are not going to be able to pay it back just by our profits, so we will sell some of the company off but only at the right time at the right price.
  • I want to make sure we all get paid competitively. If you shoot the lights out in a given year, we should have enough flexibility to give you a big increase.
  • It’s time the people in Congress stopped talking about you [employees] as the problem, because you’re the solution. It’s not your fault, it’s their fault, it’s the regulators’ fault.
  • My fear is that you’ll say, ‘I don’t know if Treasury wants it, I don’t know if the Fed wants it, I don’t know if the lawyers want it, I don’t know whatever.’ If you sit there every day not making the right decisions to take us to the next level, we’ll miss an opportunity.
  • [On his commitment to remain CEO of AIG until he's rebuilt it:] It’s not a question of, I’m here for a year, two years and then I’m going back to my retirement

Now, I’m sure most people will hear this kind of talk from a man who’s company owes the Federal Government $182.5 billion and think, “How dare he? What an incredible asshole!” But consider what it must be like to be an AIG employee, or even an AIG shareholder. To them, I think this probably sounds like the confidence and leadership required to turn the company around. Also, it sounds like a place where one can build and/or grow a career. Since the bailout, AIG has lost 45 of its managers to competing firms. Mr. Benmosche seems determined to retain his employees, even in the face of public pressure. He, himself, will receive a salary of $7 milion, with long-term incentives totalling as much as $3.5 million more (this, compared to the $1 that his predecessor, Edward Liddy, earned for the ten months he was at the helm).

Succeed or fail as he may, Mr. Benmosche seems determined to bring AIG back from the dead. If he succeeds, a lot of folks will likely be ticked off at him. Then again, we’ll get our $182.5 billion back, so maybe that’s not all bad…

Topics: Money Talk | No Comments »

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