Remember the old ad campaign, “When E.F. Hutton talks, people listen,” in which a crowded, noisy room would go so quiet you could hear a pin drop whenever the sponsor’s name was mentioned? There have never been very many people who could silence a room like that in the insurance business, but Ramani Ayer was one of them.

Today, the iconic chairman and CEO at The Hartford already has one foot out the door after being pretty much hounded into promising to retire at year’s end.  That’s not a surprise, given the company’s horrific financial troubles over the past year, thanks to investments that went south and overly generous guarantees made on variable annuities, putting the company into a life-threatening jam.

Mr. Ayer tried to make things right, convincing Allianz–which owns rival insurer Fireman’s Fund–to cough up $2.5 billion last fall, before having to go hat in hand to Uncle Sam for $3.4 billion in bailout money from the Troubled Asset Relief Program.

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