American International Group Inc. has announced the death of its former president and chief executive officer, Robert H. Benmosche.
Benmosche, 70, died on Friday morning at NYU Langone Medical Center, with his family at his side, AIG said, noting that he had been undergoing treatment for lung cancer since 2010.
Robert S. Miller, chairman of the AIG board of directors, called Benmosche “one of the most inspirational and successful leaders in corporate America by any measure.”
“There is no limit to the greatness that good people can accomplish when you give them the freedom to act.”
“We will never forget that under Bob’s extraordinary leadership, the people of AIG repaid America in full plus a profit of nearly $23 billion,” Miller said in a statement. In addition to his tremendous leadership skills, Miller noted Benmosche’s energy, passion and tenacity.
Benmosche served as president and CEO of AIG from Aug. 10, 2009 to Sept. 1, 2014, taking on the responsibility of a company that had received taxpayer assistance in connection with the 2008 financial crisis totaling some $182 billion. In addition to the repayment, accomplished through various divestitures and restructuring activities, by 2014, AIG completely returned to profitability as a global leader in property, casualty and consumer insurance.
“At AIG, we will honor his legacy by continuing to focus on integrity and performance,” Miller said.
Benmosche’s successor, Peter D. Hancock, said he is inspired by the example Benmosche set and that his colleagues can be continually inspired by words Benmosche repeated over and over during his tenure: “There is no limit to the greatness that good people can accomplish when you give them the freedom to act.”
Starr Companies Chair and CEO Maurice R. Greenberg, the longtime chair and CEO of AIG (until 2005) issued a separate statement late Friday about Benmosche’s passing, expressing great sadness. “He was a very good friend, and we knew each other for many years,” said Greenberg, who made a personal trip to Croatia in 2009 to persuade Benmosche, then-retired from prior leadership roles at MetLife, to take the job at AIG.
“I knew then that Bob would do an outstanding job, and that he would be effective in saving AIG. That outcome speaks for itself,” Greenberg said.
“Bob provided for his own successor, all while valiantly fighting cancer,” Greenberg added. “He was a strong leader, and he worked tirelessly to serve AIG, despite his illness. He was a model of courage for others to see.”
Before joining AIG, Benmosche was the chairman, president and CEO of MetLife—leading the company from a mutual to a public company in 2000. He joined MetLife in 1995 as executive vice president, responsible for business integration and product development, marketing and sales efforts focused on MetLife’s individual customers.
Earlier in his career, Benmosche served as Executive Vice President for PaineWebber, Inc., where he directed the merger of Kidder Peabody into PaineWebber. He also served in various capacities with Chase Manhattan Bank from 1976 to 1982.
Benmosche was inducted into the Insurance Hall of Fame in 2013 and was named Insurance Leader of the Year by St. John’s University School of Risk Management in 2014.
He also served as a lieutenant in the United States Army from 1966 to 1968.
A separate statement from Benmosche’s family noted the former AIG leader’s “streetwise self-confidence.”
According to the family statement, Benmosche received his first understanding of what dire financial straits looked like when he was just a boy. At the age of 10, his father died suddenly, leaving his mother $250,000 in debt. “The trauma of this event no doubt informed his work ethic: as a teenager, he worked in his parents’ motel business and then drove delivery trucks for Coca-Cola. The memory of those hard times steeled him in his fight to have AIG repay the bailout money, a task completed in 2012,” the family statement said.
The family statement included quotes from Benmosche himself—excerpts from a commencement address to the Class of 2013 at Alfred University, his alma mater: “My mom taught me, in life, don’t take yourself too seriously. And I don’t.
“What she said was, in life, people will kiss your buns on the way up, and they’ll step on your throat on the way down. Don’t forget who you are. Don’t forget who you are at your core.”
With that advice guiding him, Benmosche “remained steadfastly true to himself, a man of resolute self-belief as well as compassion, a leader who had a powerful instinct for the value of a person as well as an entire corporation,” the family statement said.
A funeral service will be held for Benmosche at The Riverside Memorial Chapel, located at 180 W. 76th Street in Manhattan, at 10:00 a.m. on Sunday, March 1, 2015.