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News : International Last Updated: Dec 19th, 2007 - 13:17:15


US insurance giant AIG settles dispute with Starr company controlled by ex-CEO Greenberg but claim over $20 billion Dublin-based charity unresolved
By Finfacts Team
Dec 6, 2006, 13:10

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The 81 year-old Maurice "Hank" Greenberg (left) pictured in happier times as Chairman and CEO with the AIG Board. SICO, which is controlled by Greenberg, owns 12 per cent of AIG and offered stock on retirement to favoured employees at the world's biggest insurer. When the directors decided to move the headquarters of SICO to Dublin late last year, the charity's offices relocated as well. Current AIG CEO Martin Sullivan is the smiling white-haired guy at the rear.

US insurance giant American International Group, Inc. (AIG) and C.V. Starr & Co., Inc, a firm led by the 81-year-old former AIG Chief Executive Maurice R. "Hank" Greenberg, today announced that they have settled certain disputes between them, including disputes relating to the termination of the managing general agency relationships between their respective subsidiaries and the use of the "Starr" and "American International" trademarks.

As a result of the settlement, the terms of which are confidential, AIG shall refrain from conducting business under the "Starr" and related names, and C.V. Starr shall refrain from conducting business under the "AI", "American International" and related names.

There is still a multi-billion dollar case outstanding related to AIG shares held by Dublin-based investment vehicle Starr International Co. Greenberg is chairman of Starr International.

Greenberg said on Tuesday that C.V. Starr has opened offices in recent months in London and Hong Kong and has invested hundreds of millions of dollars since he left AIG.

BACKGROUND

In 2004, Starr International (SICO), a private Panamanian company, which has assets worth more than $20 billion, and Starr International Charitable Trust, moved their headquarters to Dublin from Bermuda.

Starr International Charitable Trust of Dublin is the ultimate beneficiary of SICO should the latter ever be dissolved. The structure is similar to the Irish Times where a standard limited company runs the operations while it is ultimately controlled by a charitable trust.

SICO is controlled by the eighty-one-year-old Maurice "Hank" Greenberg and he is also chairman of the charity.

Greenberg, who was ousted as chairman of the world's largest insurer AIG following an investigation by the outgoing New York Attorney General Eliot Spitzer into transactions with Berkshire Hathaway's General Re, does not own SICO's stock but he continues to wield influence because the company holds shares in AIG worth more than $20 billion.

Sico is named after AIG founder Cornelius Vander Starr.

Starr received $110m-worth of AIG stock in 1970, after the insurer's initial public offering. AIG's “unprecedented act of individual generosity allowed SICO to inaugurate a tradition of providing very long-term incentives to key managers of American International companies around the world”, according to the insurer's annual report for 2002.

About 700 AIG employees were potential beneficiaries. Only 10m shares have been distributed and 23m allocated—leaving 287m, worth $20.18 billion based on Tuesday's AIG closing share price..

In a US court filing on September 27, 2006, AIG charged SICO with breach of contract and unjust enrichment, claiming that SICO held its AIG shares in trust for the insurer's employees and that AIG therefore should have control of them. SICO has responded that this is absolutely untrue.

In May 2005, when Greenberg was in Dublin for a board meeting, the Financial Times said that one person close to SICO indicated that efforts to transform SICO into an investment company would move along seamlessly so long as the charity's three trustees did not object. "SICO was never structured to be a money-making operation . . . If restrictions are contained in bylaws, it would be relatively easy to change the company's bylaws. If restrictions are imposed by the charitable trust, it become s more complicated," this person said.

The possibility that the assets could be used to invest in companies in China is said to have gained the interest of Greenberg, who flew to Beijing in March for a final tour of AIG 's businesses shortly before he was ousted as the chairman.

Last December, The Wall Street Journal reported that AIG Chief Executive Martin Sullivan made the rounds at a gathering of multinational CEOs, meeting Chinese officials -- some for the first time -- whom he had to cultivate to build up the insurance giant's business there.

But across the room, a different American magnate was holding court, with a large group of Chinese officials he had known for decades. When they saw him, they warmly greeted their old friend -- AIG's longtime former chief, Maurice "Hank" Greenberg.

The newspaper says that AIG collects $1.3 billion a year in insurance premiums in China, including Hong Kong. While that is just 2% of AIG's insurance revenue, its take from Chinese premiums would quadruple in five years at the rate they're growing. One reason is the burgeoning commercial sector and middle class in the world's most populous country, both of which need more insurance. Another is an expansion drive by AIG: It plans to get into the credit-card and consumer-finance businesses in China and is moving, for the first time, toward forming joint ventures. Still, it recently had a stumble here as regulators, unhappy with an AIG sales effort, penalized the business by stalling one expansion move.

"I'll do whatever it takes for AIG to continue to succeed here," said AIG's CEO, Sullivan.

Cornelius Vander Starr began insurance operations in China in 1919 and Hank Greenberg who has a home in Hong Kong, worked hard since he became CEO of AIG in 1967 to re-establish ties with the Communist-run country.

The Wall Street Journal reported that when Sullivan arrived for the second day of the conference in Shanghai, he headed straight for his old boss, saying, "Good morning, sir." They shook hands, as Greenberg whispered about still having business to work out between them. Sullivan didn't stay to chat. Other AIG executives quickly ushered him away to introduce him to Chinese officials.

Starr International Charitable Trust of Dublin is believed to disburse up to $2 million to charities in Ireland.


© Copyright 2007 by Finfacts.com

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