New AIG Chief Has Kinder, Gentler TouchBritish-born Sullivan is charming but also tough; 'embodiesAIG culture'

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American International Group's chief executive officer, MartinSullivan, is expected to bring a more charming and gentle personalstyle to his new job compared with his legendary predecessor,Maurice Greenberg, who managed the company with an iron grip fornearly four decades, according to people who have known AIG's newCEO over the years.

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However, these same individuals also insist that while Mr.Sullivan might be more user-friendly and team-oriented than Mr.Greenberg in terms of personality and personal style, he is toughwhen necessary, is a hands-on manager, and should not beunderestimated.

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One uncertainty, though, industry observers warn, is whether Mr.Sullivan may be too much of a life-long AIG insider to take anindependent view as regulators continue to probe AIG's businesspractices.

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Mr. Sullivan, 50, replaced the 79-year-old Greenberg as CEO onMarch 14, as pressure from regulatory probes forced AIG's board tosideline its longtime leader.

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The new CEO himself admitted that he faces a “daunting task”filling the void left by Mr. Greenbergwho had been running AIGsince 1967 with a very high profile, and in the process turned asmall carrier into the world's biggest insurer with $100 billion inrevenue.

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But while it will take time to adjust to the idea of AIG withoutMr. Greenberg at the helmthe AIG Web site, for example, stillidentified Mr. Greenberg as its CEO on the corporate governancesection more than a week after the shuffleMr. Sullivan wasgenerally given a top rating by his colleagues and industryobservers alike.

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“Hes very well regarded in the industry, a long-term AIGemployee who progressively got more responsibility over the 30-plusyears he's been there. Now he's gotten all the way to the top, sohe's a very capable individual,” said Dinos Iordanou, CEO of ArchCapital Group Ltd., who worked at AIG from 1977 to 1987 as seniorvice president of the American Home unit.

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Mr. Iordanou also told National Underwriter that whileMr. Sullivan has a keen sense of humor and is very well likedwithin AIG, “don't be mistakenhe's also a tough manager. He hastoughness in him that comes in a different way. At the end of theday, I think he will do extremely well. He's clearly worthy of theappointment he got.”

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One current AIG executive who declined to be identified saidthat many employees are encouraged by the prospect of having Mr.Sullivan as the companys next CEO. “He is very highly thought ofwithin the company and is a very well-respected guy here,” theexecutive said.

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Paul Newsome, an analyst at investment firm AG Edwards &Sons Inc., who has met and talked with Mr. Sullivan, described thenew CEO as an “impressive guy.”

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“Hes been with AIG for a long timehe embodies the AIG culture,”Mr. Newsome said. “He's almost certainly going to be a gentler,kinder CEO. The perception is that he's a little more laid back, alittle bit easier going, less rough around the edges than Mr.Greenberg.”

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Yet despite differences in personal styles between Mr. Sullivanand Mr. Greenberg, Mr. Sullivan is also known for his directnessandhe also, like Mr. Greenberg, has a reputation as a hands-onmicro-manager.

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“My guess is that you will see a very similar management stylefrom Mr. Sullivannot too much change from Mr. Greenberg, butprobably more cooperation among senior managers than you would haveseen previously,” Mr. Newsome predicted.

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One reason Mr. Sullivan may need to cooperate extensively withother senior managers is his lack of experience on thelife-insurance side.

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“Yes, this is a concern. Chief Operating Officer Donald Kanak isperceived to have a much stronger life-insurance background,” Mr.Newsome noted, referring to another top AIG executive who waswidely seen as Mr. Sullivans main competitor for Mr. Greenbergsjob.

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Mr. Kanak, 52, who had been serving as AIG's co-chief operatingofficer along with Mr. Sullivan for the past two years, has beennamed executive vice chairman and the sole chief operating officerduring this months management change. Mr. Newsome forecast thatkeeping Mr. Kanak and the rest of the senior management teamworking together will be an “important part of Mr. Sullivan'ssuccess.” He added that “Mr. Sullivan's tenure as the CEO will bemore of a team effort.”

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Mr. Sullivan, born in Dagenham near London, is now one of themost powerful foreign-born executives running a U.S. corporation,completing a rise to the top that began 34 years ago.

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Mr. Sullivan first started working in the insurance industry atthe age of 16 when he left school to work for Sun Alliance. Hejoined AIG at 17 at the company's U.K. non-life insurance businessin 1971, progressively rising up the ranks to become AIGs propertyinsurance manager for the U.K. region.

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In 1988, he was named manager of AIG's overseas unit's office inLondon, and in 1993 became managing director of AIG Europe Ltd. In1996, he relocated to New York to become chief operating officer ofAIG's overseas insurance operations.

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Mr. Sullivanan executive little known to investors and thepublic for most of his careerwas thrust into the media spotlight in2002 when, in a management shuffle, he was positioned as one of afew potential successors to Mr. Greenberg. In an unexpected move,Mr. Sullivan was named vice chairman and, along with Mr. Kanak,co-chief operating officer of AIG and was elected to the board.

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This month, when he was named AIGs new chief executive, Mr.Sullivan told analysts: “It is a daunting task to step into theshoes of Hank Greenberg. Thanks to his leadership, AIG's businessunits are managed by tested professionals who are leaders in theirfields. We have an extremely strong business and our financialfundamentals remain intact.”

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AIG, Mr. Sullivan also noted, is committed to cooperating withvarious government authorities in their ongoing investigations ofhis firm. “We take these matters seriously and want to bring themto resolution,” he said.


Reproduced from National Underwriter Edition, March 25, 2005.Copyright 2005 by The National Underwriter Company in the serialpublication. All rights reserved.Copyright in this article as anindependent work may be held by the author.


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