AIG lures industry veteran Duperreault as CEO with sweet package

NEW YORK (Reuters) - American International Group Inc AIG.N on Monday named an insurance industry veteran as its new chief executive officer, luring him from the firm he started with a lucrative financial package that includes buying a big piece of his company.

FILE PHOTO: A banner for American International Group Inc (AIG) hangs on the facade of the New York Stock Exchange, in New York, U.S., on October 16, 2012. REUTERS/Brendan McDermid/File Photo

In hiring Brian Duperreault, who is 70, AIG is giving into the demands of billionaire investor Carl Icahn, AIG’s fourth largest shareholder, who has been pushing for changes at the insurer.

Duperreault’s appointment caps more than two months of uncertainty for shareholders after outgoing CEO Peter Hancock announced in March he would step down, citing a lack of confidence from the board and investors.

“Very pleased the AIG board is finally making some of the much-needed changes we’ve been advocating the last 18 months,” Icahn tweeted.

AIG’s shares were up 0.7 percent at $61.42 in afternoon trading.

AIG said it will pay as much as $40 million to free Duperreault from a noncompete agreement with Hamilton Insurance Group Ltd, the firm he founded and ran, in addition to a $16 million annual pay package.

AIG also agreed to buy Hamilton’s U.S. business, a technology-driven group of insurance companies, for $110 million, and create a partnership with an affiliate of quantitative investment firm Two Sigma to expand its data mining and analytics.

A growing number of insurers are embracing data mining to help price products more effectively and better assess and manage risks.

Last year, AIG, Hamilton and Two Sigma collectively invested in Attune, a startup that helps insurance brokers and agents quickly offer quotes and finalize policies for small commercial businesses. Its technology relies on public data, like whether a restaurant passed health inspections, as well as Two Sigma’s private data.

“Putting data science and technology to work in our industry has been on my agenda for some time,” Duperreault said in a statement.

AIG announced a partnership with Hamilton’s reinsurance business as well. The companies described it as a deal that could spark “material premium growth” for Hamilton Re, and provide AIG with a fresh source of reinsurance capital.

Bermuda-born Duperreault spent many years at AIG earlier in his career, becoming a protégé of former longtime CEO Hank Greenberg. After leaving AIG in 1994, Duperreault built a reputation as an expert in growing small companies and righting troubled ones.

He built ACE Group Inc from a small outfit to a global operation, then launched a successful turnaround as president and CEO at Marsh & McLennan Cos Inc MMC.N before founding Hamilton.

Duperreault’s age suggests he may only stay at AIG for three to five years, several recruiters said in interviews. The company is nearly three-quarters through a turnaround plan that he will guide to completion while grooming a successor, they said.

“Brian is uniquely qualified to lead AIG at this important time,” Douglas Steenland, chairman of AIG’s board, said in a statement. “He is a hands-on leader who has consistently delivered strong bottom-line results.”

AIG’s turnaround plan was intended to trim the New York-based insurer through divestitures, improve its financial performance and return $25 billion in capital to shareholders. The company has already put more than $18 billion toward that goal, and its board authorized another $2.5 billion stock repurchase plan last month.

Hancock, the previous CEO, developed the plan partly in response to demands from Icahn, who had wanted to split the company into three parts.

AIG reported poor fourth-quarter results in February, prompting Hancock to step down, and analysts and investors wondered whether the breakup idea was under consideration again. However, at an event on Monday for investors, Duperreault said it is off the table.

“I didn’t come here to break the company up,” he said. “I came here to grow it.”

Duperreault’s appointment could test whether possible internal candidates for the CEO job will stay.

The most prominent was Rob Schimek, CEO of AIG’s commercial insurance unit, who joined the company in 2005 as its chief financial officer.

Industry sources describe Schimek, age 52, as capable and accomplished, though he lacks Duperreault’s turnaround experience. During his time at AIG, he has been credited with helping ink reinsurance pacts with Swiss Re AG and Berkshire Hathaway Inc to offset long-term risks on U.S. commercial insurance policies.

A spokesman for Schimek was not immediately available to comment.

Analysts are now bracing for a management shakeup.

“We expect the incoming CEO to announce further changes in management ranks, especially in the corporate finance and commercial lines areas,” JPMorgan analyst Jimmy Bhullar wrote in a report on Monday.

Additional reporting by Sweta Singh in Bengaluru; Editing by Jeffrey Benkoe and Meredith Mazzilli