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The AIG Story
Former AIG Chairman and CEO Maurice R. “Hank” Greenberg and GW law professor Lawrence A. Cunningham set the record straight in The AIG Story (Wiley; February 2013; $29.95; hardcover & ebook; ISBN: 978-1-118-34587-0), a riveting account of the rise and near-destruction of AIG, the once-great insurance company Greenberg steered for 37 years, well before the turmoil it endured during the 2008 financial crisis. In a page-turner that reveals facts about AIG previously unknown to the public, this book will change the way people view AIG and the story behind its astonishing achievements, offering invaluable lessons for entrepreneurs and businesses in search of success.
The AIG Story narrates how Greenberg, at the age of 27, chanced upon a career in the insurance industry and quickly distinguished himself as an innovative and daring business executive: competitive, entrepreneurial, risk-savvy, disciplined, and willing to challenge the industry’s status quo. In the late 1960s, he led the creation of AIG. By 2005, it was the world’s largest insurance company, generating unprecedented value for its shareholders. During the nearly forty years of his leadership, AIG's market value grew from millions to nearly $200 billion.
Unfortunately, AIG then suffered a reversal of fortune reminiscent of a Greek tragedy. AIG became the target of the notoriously overzealous New York State Attorney General, Eliot Spitzer. Spitzer’s relentless war against AIG—which ultimately forced Greenberg to resign from the company he proudly built —would drive AIG to near destruction. Greenberg and Cunningham detail how Spitzer’s prosecutorial tactics served neither the interests of shareholders nor, more importantly, of the public.
But that was not the end of AIG’s troubles. As the AIG culture Greenberg helped to build faded after his departure, AIG found itself the in the middle of the financial collapse of 2008, teetering on bankruptcy. By the time the crisis was over, AIG was a mere shadow of the great company Greenberg and
AIG’s tens of thousands of loyal employees had created. AIG went from being an American icon with nearly $1 trillion in assets to the verge of extinction at the hands of government officials purporting to “rescue” the company.
In spite of its recent troubles, AIG’s legacy will be that of a pioneer forging new trails, not only in the insurance industry but also throughout the world, by paving the way for globalization. It assembled an innovative, loyal and committed workforce without peer in the industry. Time and again it custom-tailored insurance products to fit clients’ needs, including groundbreaking insurance policies designed for a world plagued by tort litigation, environmental disasters, war, and terrorism.
Thanks to AIG’s commitment to innovation and its clients, the total market value of AIG’s stock under Greenberg’s tenure soared from hundreds of millions in the late 60s to $180 billion—an increase of 19,000%. By 2005, it was the largest insurance company in world history and one of the largest companies in any industry.
The AIG Story captures the excitement behind the birth and evolution of AIG as it conveys a sense of its distinctive strategies and culture. Although the book details the near-destruction of AIG, most of it is about how to build a business: how to develop the vision and promote an innovative entrepreneurial culture focused on risk management, cost control, and profitability. Successful businesses must excel at establishing relationships, creating products, and opening markets. No one knows how to accomplish these goals better than Hank Greenberg.
Topics discussed in The AIG Story include:
- How AIG, in the days after 9/11, created a unique aviation insurance pool that would keep the world’s fleet of commercial and passenger aircraft aloft in spite of the newly emerged terrorist threat.
- AIG’s key role in the US government’s top-secret mission to recover a sunken Soviet nuclear submarine deep in the waters of the Pacific Ocean at the height of the Cold War.
- How AIG managed to do business with Iron Curtain nations and helped pave the way to reopen trade with China, thus setting the stage for globalization.
- The “profit center model,” an organizational innovation implemented by Greenberg that boosted profits and became the distinctive hallmark of all the businesses in the AIG empire.
- In overcoming institutional resistance to new business ideas and practices, Greenberg was a grandmaster. Learn how he did it in cultures as diverse as Japan, Russian, China, and, of course, in the U.S.
- How Greenberg’s emphasis on relationships in business led him and AIG to befriend the late 20th century’s most important global leaders in government, business and diplomacy.
- The ways in which AIG, with its vast international network of “global overseas personnel,” became a valuable asset to the U.S. government in the decades leading to globalization.
- The true facts behind Spitzer’s attack on AIG and Greenberg’s resignation from the company
- The real story behind the U.S. government’s intervention against AIG during the 2008 financial crisis
- The latest on Greenberg’s current business endeavors as Chairman and CEO of C.V. Starr and Co., using the practices and policies that made AIG a uniquely world-class company.
AIG’s culture was characterized by a relentless quest to be first—first to develop and launch products, first to open and grow markets, first in performance from earnings to growth to assets. The culture spawned a commitment to innovation unlike the culture at any other insurance company. Creativity was ignited by paying close attention to trends and pockets of hazards where insurance was needed. It paid rich rewards to shareholders, employees and customers alike.
AIG is one-of-a-kind, perhaps impossible to duplicate, but the company remains a promising paradigm for business visionaries wishing to pursue their dreams and achieve unparalleled success. The AIG Story shows how Hank Greenberg put that remarkable paradigm into practice.