Robert Benmosche, combative AIG turnaround CEO, dead at 70

Already impressive insurance career was capped by energetic rescue of major mega-insurer crushed by Great Recession—even as he suffered from cancer.

Robert Benmosche.
The late former AIG CEO, Robert Benmosche. (AIG photo via Wikipedia, Creative Commons 3.0 license)

NEW YORK, February 27, 2015 – Sources report that former AIG CEO and President Robert “Bob” Benmosche, 70, died Friday at NYU’s Langone Medical Center. He had been undergoing treatment for lung cancer since 2010.

“We announce this news with profound sadness, and our thoughts and prayers are with Bob’s family at this difficult time,” Chairman Robert S. Miller noted in a prepared public statement. “Bob was one of the most inspirational and successful leaders in corporate America by any measure.” Despite Benmosche’s intense drive and often abrasive personality, particularly with regard to politicians and government regulators, nearly everyone in the financial community would be inclined to agree.

Benmosche was appointed to serve as the beleaguered insurance conglomerate’s insurer’s president and CEO, serving from August 2009 until September 2014 when he stepped down slightly ahead of his own schedule, due to the worsening prognosis of his illness. AIG was once one the world’s largest insurers before the 2007-2009 U.S. fiscal crisis.

The former chairman and CEO of MetLife, Benmosche acted with courage and decisiveness to right AIG’s badly damaged corporate ship while moving to extract the company from the oppressive weight of the government’s TARP bailout of the company. He was eventually able to repair AIG’s entire $182 billion Federal bailout loan to America’s taxpayers.

During his tenure as CEO, Benmosche relentlessly cleared AIG’s massive indebtedness by carefully downsizing, cutting big but marginally profitable divisions, trimming the company’s huge international footprint, and focusing remaining businesses back on the domestic market.

While his actions were sometimes controversial, and while he frequently clashed with state and federal bureaucrats and politicians, he made AIG profitable again, lifting the spirits—and bank accounts—of the company’s long-suffering stockholders, many of whom had already resigned themselves to losing their investments.

But from a low of $11.39 per share when Benmosche was brought on board AIG, the company shares were worth over $56 per share when he departed the company last fall.

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Terry Ponick
Biographical Note: Dateline Award-winning music and theater critic for The Connection Newspapers and the Reston-Fairfax Times, Terry was the music critic for the Washington Times print edition (1994-2010) and online Communities (2010-2014). Since 2014, he has been the Business and Entertainment Editor for Communities Digital News (CDN). A former stockbroker and a writer and editor with many interests, he served as editor under contract from the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP) and continues to write on science and business topics. He is a graduate of Georgetown University (BA, MA) and the University of South Carolina where he was awarded a Ph.D. in English and American Literature and co-founded one of the earliest Writing Labs in the country. Twitter: @terryp17