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LippeSwiss Re started the year in a tough spot, having reported a big loss for 2008 and not enough capital on hand to maintain its “AA” rating from S&P. Yet the firm has managed a rapid change in fortunes, thanks to a substantial capital injection, a quick clean-up of its investment portfolio and a continuing emphasis on sound underwriting, CEO Stefan Lippe stressed during an exclusive interview this morning in his Manhattan office.

Mr. Lippe became CEO in February, right in the middle of a flood of bad financial news for Swiss Re. But he is no stranger to the company, having served in various capacities for 25 years, and he hit the ground running.

Giving him a head start was the fact that Swiss Re, a week before his appointment as CEO, had announced a deal to inject additional capital of some three billion Swiss francs in what Mr. Lippe described as “bridge financing” from Berkshire Hathaway, in the form of a convertible capital instrument.

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