Robert H. Benmosche, who this week came out of retirement totake over as American International Group's fourth chief executiveofficer in just more than a year, drew high praise from manyleading agents and brokers. Still, some cited concerns about hislack of property and casualty insurance background, as well as thechallenges he faces in restoring his firm's tarnishedreputation.

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Mr. Benmosche, who last served as chair, president and CEO ofMetLife before retiring in 2005, took the reins this week from EdLiddy, the former Allstate chair and CEO.

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"Now he has passed the baton to me, and I look forward tocontinuing the race," he said in a statement. "With my AIGcolleagues, we will focus on this mission--maximizing the value ofthe company's assets and meeting all of our stakeholderobligations."

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No one expects a cakewalk for the 65-year-old Mr. Benmosche.

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AIG still faces significant hurdles to pay back tens of billionsin federal loans, while selling more of its operating units andmaintaining the viability of its remaining subsidiaries in themidst of a deep recession as well as still shaky investment andcapital markets.

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However, perhaps the biggest hurdle Mr. Benmosche will confrontwill be restoring the reputation of AIG--which reflects on itsinsurance subsidiaries--as a premier organization in the eyes ofits customers, according to Tom Adderhold, president of PreferredInsurance Group, a brokerage in Duluth, Ga.

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"AIG, on paper, is as solid as you can get," he said, but themajor challenge for the new chief executive will be instilling"confidence again" in the company, its agency force and customers,he added.

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Mr. Adderhold said the word on the street is that Mr. Benmoscheis a good listener who "talks to those in the trenches beforemaking a decision," noting that a recent telephone conference withAIG company executives in regional offices left them upbeat andimpressed.

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"If he can stabilize AIG and return it to its leading positionin the industry, it will be a win-win for everybody," Mr. Adderholdconcluded.

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One word of caution came via C. Brett Nilsson, senior vicepresident of The Buckner Company in Ogden, Utah, and chair of theIndependent Insurance Agents and Brokers of America. While wishingthe new chief executive well, he expressed his personal opinionthat Mr. Benmosche is an unknown quantity in the property andcasualty insurance marketplace.

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However, "he certainly has been successful in past endeavorsthroughout his life with MetLife, as well as both securities andbanking ventures," he noted, but whether that will translate intothe p&c realm remains to be determined.

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"AIG has also gone through a number of changes over the mostrecent past, and if they are able to secure some stability it coulddo nothing less than calm the marketplace," according to Mr.Nilsson.

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"Most of what I have heard regarding AIG revolves around thenewer entity of AIU Holdings, the property and casualty division ofAIG," he noted, referring to p&c units that will now be brandedas Chartis.

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"This division appears to have calmed down and offered somereassurance that the insurance arm of AIG is alive and well, as ithistorically has been--unlike many of the other services offeredoutside of insurance to various customers," he said.

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Mr. Nilsson added that "it is the government involvement as wellas the ancillary interests that have affected the poor public imageof AIG in the past year, as the company concentrates more on payingback its government-backed loans instead of running thebusiness."

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Thomas Minkler, president of the Clark-Mortenson Agency inKeene, N.H., said Mr. Benmosche "faces a huge task to get [thecompany] back to a place of normalcy and focused on the insuranceside of the aisle."

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Reacting to the appointment, the world's three biggest brokersissued statements praising Mr. Liddy and congratulating Mr.Benmosche on his appointment.

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"We all owe Ed Liddy a debt of gratitude for all of his work andeffort on behalf of AIG and the insurance industry," said GregCase, president and CEO of Aon Corp. "[Mr.] Benmosche is anexcellent choice to succeed Ed in taking up the mantle ofleadership to guide AIG."

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"Ed Liddy is to be commended for stepping into the breach andleading AIG under very trying conditions," said Joe Plumeri, CEOand chairman of Willis. "I congratulate Bob Benmosche on hisappointment. He's got a strong track record of leadership anddecisiveness that will serve the company well, and I look forwardto working with him."

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"Ed Liddy did a terrific job under very difficult circumstancesand we wish him well," said Brian Duperreault, president and CEO ofMarsh & McLennan, the parent company of insurance broker Marsh."At Marsh, we very much look forward to doing business with Mr.Benmosche and wish him great success in his new role."

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One insurance company executive who worked with Mr. Benmosche,and requested anonymity, said AIG has gotten a tough boss who willbe well informed and not take a lot of abuse.

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"Don't expect Mr. Benmosche to be a punching bag when he talksto Congress," the executive said. "He will speak his piece and willnot take the abuse Mr. Liddy did when explaining his position [tomembers of Congress]."

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Mr. Benmosche is a hands-on executive who "operates by thenumbers," he noted.

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"Managers at AIG ought to be stepping up their efforts becausehe will demand results," said the source. "He will take home reamsof reports and he will come back the next day ready to ask thetough questions."

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Julie Burke, managing director for Fitch Ratings, observed thatAIG has gotten an executive with a "pretty expansive resume," whichshould serve his new company well.

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Still, he has an enormous task ahead of him, she noted, addingthat the job is no less formable than what he faced when handlingthe MetLife demutualization in 2000.

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(With additional reporting by Arthur D.Postal.)

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