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TheStreet Open House

AIG's Benmosche Puts Wall Street's Foot in his Mouth

Benmosche, who came to AIG after its bailout, has turned the company around, repaying the U.S. government and paying a 10 cent/share dividend this month. But the current price of nearly $50/share has to be set against a 1:20 reverse split, which happened a month before he took over.

He has done a good job delivering nearly $5 billion in net income this year spread across 1.48 billion shares. The market cap is back over $72 billion, and the AIG name has been placed back on key subsidiaries, like the former Chartis and the former SunAmerica.

But the worst was over before Benmosche joined. He retired as CEO of MetLife (MET) in 2006, and was just a board member at Credit Suisse (CS) when he was recruited by Jim Millstein, then chief restructuring officer at the U.S. Department of the Treasury. It's Millstein who turned AIG around, not Benmosche.

Since 2009 Benmosche has steered a steady course, which was the point of the Journal piece that began all this. But he's not Ted Turner, who transformed the Atlanta Braves from a laughingstock into an important baseball franchise. He's Fredi Gonzalez, the guy who gets to manage them now.

Benmosche now has the job former Braves manager Bobby Cox handled so well, that of seeing to a proper succession and heading into retirement himself. Benmosche is 69, he's a cancer survivor and he said last year he intends to retire by the end of next year.

The hope on the Street is his successor learns from his mistakes, for all our sakes. When someone hands you billions in assets and a clear field for managing them, the proper response is that of my friend and neighbor Edna House, who turns 100 in December and whose grandparents were slaves, for real:

Thank you, I'm blessed.

At the time of publication, the author owned 200 shares of AIG.

This article is commentary by an independent contributor, separate from TheStreet's regular news coverage.

Dana Blankenhorn has been a business journalist since 1978, and a tech reporter since 1982. His specialty has been getting to the future ahead of the crowd, then leaving before success arrived. That meant covering the Internet in 1985, e-commerce in 1994, the Internet of Things in 2005, open source in 2005 and, since 2010, renewable energy. He has written for every medium from newspapers and magazines to Web sites, from books to blogs. He still seeks tomorrow from his Craftsman home in Atlanta.
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