Hank Greenberg Says He's Backing Jeb Bush

The man who built American International Group Inc. into the world's largest insurer says he'll give to the super-PAC and campaign backing the former Florida governor.

Hank Greenberg speaks during a Bloomberg Television interview on June 25, 2015.

Photographer: Michael Nagle/Bloomberg

Hank Greenberg, who built American International Group Inc. into the world's largest insurer, said he's putting his money behind Jeb Bush in the Republican Party's crowded nomination race.

“Does he have the flair others are looking for? No, but that's not what you judge a candidate on,” Greenberg said in an interview. “You judge him on his competence, and he got the job done in Florida.”

Greenberg, 90, said he and Bush had coffee on Thursday morning at the offices of CV Starr & Co., a New York-based group of insurance and financial-services companies where Greenberg is chairman and chief executive. Greenberg said he'd donate to Bush and Right to Rise USA, the super-PAC supporting Bush's campaign, but those details hadn't been finalized.

Greenberg, who backed Republican Mitt Romney during the 2012 primary race, said that he wasn't concerned about Bush's drop in the polls, adding that the former governor would outlast the rest of the field. He has given more than $300,000 to federal candidates over the past two decades, including $15,000 to a group supporting Romney's bid.

“There's what? Sixteen candidates, or whatever? Christ. That will shrink very quickly,” Greenberg said.

Greenberg, who served in World War II and Korea, said he supported Bush's positions on welcoming legal immigration, increasing economic opportunity for families, and a stronger international presence for the United States. “My views are not a helluva lot different than his,” Greenberg said.

Greenberg was ousted as AIG's chief executive in 2005 amid accusations of improper financial transactions. A year later, the company agreed to pay $1.6 billion to settle claims including bid rigging and improper accounting. 

More recently, Greenberg fought the federal government over the payback of AIG's $85 billion bailout during the 2008 financial crisis. A federal judge in June ruled in favor of Greenberg, saying the terms were illegally onerous. The judge however, also ruled that investors would probably have gotten nothing without the deal, and awarded Greenberg none of the $40 billion in damages he sought for shareholders.

AIG returned to the black after the bailout, which ballooned to $182 billion, and repaid the assistance in 2012, leaving the government with a $22.7 billion profit.

(A previous version of this story misstated the terms of AIG's 2006 settlement.)

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