Hank Greenberg Opens Up

By Maria Bartiromo

At my lunch with Hank Greenberg recently, the former chairman and CEO of American International Group (AIG ) talked about what he has been doing since stepping down and his plans to reinvent himself. He told me, among other things, that he's part of a group investing in embattled broker Refco Inc. Then, hours before he jetted off to Asia for a business trip, I visited him in his new New York office, decorated with photos of Hank with Asian leaders and a picture of his dog, Snowball.

Let's try to talk as specifically as you can, Hank, about what you're doing with your investments and where you're investing.

CV Starr & Co. and Starr International Co. [are] invested in private equity and are co-investing with others; commitments of about $400 million dollars so far. Starr money is being invested in both the U.S. and a number of countries in Asia.

I am also looking at Eastern Europe -- you know, emerging markets where the population and per capita [income] is increasing. They want to buy washing machines, they want to buy TVs. They need help in financing these things, so consumer finance would be a growing business for many parts of the world.

Do you think China will at some point become the world's largest economy?

Unless they stumble, absolutely.

How do you feel about AIG, the company you built?

It's a great company. I took [it] from $300 million market value to about $160 billion. I don't think it's been done [before]. Look, it's the largest insurance company in history -- in history.

So you plan to bring CV Starr to the size of AIG?

Could be. I think big, Maria.

Can you talk about AIG's board pushing you out?

I can't comment on that. I'd love to. There will be a day when I can, but it's not today.

Stories came out about the board withholding personal items of yours. Why would they withhold them, and did you get everything back?

I don't think I've gotten everything back...there are many things missing. There is a table that has very sentimental [meaning] to me, and I want it back. Why did they do that? There is no rational reason that I can come to. I led AIG for about 38 years. I would have thought I'd be entitled to my personal things.

You transferred [AIG stock then valued at $2.2 billion] to your wife [just before you resigned], and you took it back [a short while later]. Why did you do that?

There were some estate planning things, and I decided there was such a fuss about it. [Plus] it wasn't working.

Was she upset?

No, not at all.

But you had to cook dinner a few nights, right?

Yeah, I was getting home earlier. (Laughs)

Do you feel your friends stayed with you, colleagues in business stayed with you, during what has to be the toughest period in business for you?

You know, Maria, that is a very good question. You'd be surprised what you learn about people when you have an incident arrive like it did last year. Many friends did stand by me, and some very good friends were silent. You really find out about people when [situations like that] occur.

Do you speak to those people who stayed silent?

Not if I can avoid it.

Has this crisis brought the Greenberg family closer?

Oh, yes, it has. It has brought us all very close.

These have obviously been tough years, and some of your friends have been shocked. Have you done anything wrong?

Absolutely not.

Maria Bartiromo is the host of CNBC's Closing Bell

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