Human Capital & Careers

Battle for Starr’s Stake in AIG

Nearly 12 percent of the insurer's shares are held by the private Bermuda-based investment firm where Hank Greenberg remains chairman.
Stephen TaubSeptember 29, 2005

American International Group Inc. is taking former chairman and chief executive officer Maurice R. “Hank” Greenberg to court, seeking control of about $20 billion of AIG shares, according to The Wall Street Journal.

The shares, which represent nearly 12 percent of the total outstanding, are held by Starr International Co., a private Bermuda-based investment firm whose chief asset is its big stake in AIG — and where Greenberg remains chairman.

According to the Journal, AIG has asserted that it should own the Starr shares because there is a “longstanding agreement” between the two companies that Starr would “retain and use such shares for the benefit of AIG and AIG employees.” The insurer reportedly added that over three decades, AIG and Starr “have shared the same history and the same purpose.”

In the past, noted the Journal, AIG’s huge bonus pool was pushed off to Starr’s books, enabling the insurer to avoid the expense. This week, added the newspaper, AIG filed details of its new deferred-compensation plan; reportedly, it resembles the old plan, except that AIG will book the expense, estimated this year at $100 million.

If AIG were able to obtain control of the Starr shares, observed the Journal, the company could keep the Starr-hosted compensation plan off AIG’s books. “It’s pretty much found money that would make a portion of the firm’s compensation expense free,” Morningstar analyst Dreyfus Neenan told the paper.

The Journal also pointed out that AIG’s lawsuit is actually a countersuit to litigation brought by Starr earlier this year. That lawsuit seeks control of certain assets that allegedly belong to Greenberg, including art, antiques, and even personal belongings, including letters from Greenberg’s mother during his military service.