Maurice R. Greenberg
• Launched innovative products to cover risks such as online identity theft and hijacking
• Increased heft in life insurance, wealth management, and retirement planning with the acquisition of American General Corp.
PHOTO BY BRAD TRENT
He's not the type to give group hugs. But few run their business better than Maurice R. Greenberg of American International Group Inc. (AIG ) The colorful, sometimes bombastic chairman and chief executive managed to push the insurance giant to a profit of $327 million in the third quarter, despite an $820 million hit from the September 11 attacks and charges relating to its recent $23 billion acquisition of American General Corp. Even so, analysts are predicting 15% earnings growth for 2001. AIG's diversity and global reach certainly help, but Greenberg also runs a rigorous operation with margins that rank among the highest in the industry. "That discipline constantly pays off," says shareholder John Waterman of Rittenhouse Financial Services.
Greenberg, 76, came to the industry by accident, knocking on the door of Continental Casualty Co. three days after he returned from serving in Korea. In vintage Greenberg style, he chewed out the boss of a man who initially rebuffed him and wound up with a job. He later moved to AIG, and in 1967 succeeded Cornelius Vander Starr, who founded the company in 1919 as a small Shanghai-based insurer. Under Greenberg, it has expanded into everything from asset management to aircraft leasing, with more than $300 billion in assets. He has also championed innovative products that insure almost any type of risk, including Internet identity theft and hijacking. Says Greenberg: "When new ideas come in, they don't find a deaf ear."
In many ways, it has been a difficult year for the insurance chief. The September 11 attacks led to the largest payout in AIG history, as well as the deaths of several people he knew. And both of the sons he groomed as heirs apparent--Evan and Jeff--now work at other companies. Each cited personal reasons for leaving the family fold. That's O.K., though, as the famously workaholic Greenberg has no intentions of retiring anytime soon. "I still have lots of plans," he says. "It's up to the board to decide." No doubt they'll decide to let Greenberg run the show awhile longer.