NEW YORK (Reuters) - The board of bailed-out insurer American International Group on Wednesday said Chairman Steve Miller would become interim chief executive if CEO Bob Benmosche is sidelined by his cancer treatment.
AIG said on Monday that Benmosche had cancer and was receiving aggressive chemotherapy, but intended to stay in his job and work a full schedule. Doctors and governance experts have said he could find it difficult, however, to both run the company and pursue treatment.
AIG’s board, which met Wednesday, said Miller would step in if Benmosche “would become unwilling or unable” to continue in his job. He would stay until the company found a permanent replacement in the job.
Miller is a corporate turnaround specialist who has run a number of companies and was immediately seen after Monday’s news as a potential short-term CEO for AIG. The company has been making substantial progress in paying down its bailout but still owes the U.S. government around $100 billion.
Miller, who was nominated to the AIG board last year, took over as chairman on July 14 from Harvey Golub. Golub left abruptly after tensions with Benmosche, who told the board that their working relationship as chairman and CEO had become “ineffective and unsustainable.”
Miller served in a number of corporate restructurings, heading Delphi Corp, Bethlehem Steel, Federal-Mogul, Waste Management and Morrison Knudsen. He was also a director at UAL Corp during its reorganization.
The board’s move to set a decisive plan about how Benmosche would be succeeded in the short- and long-term is likely to silence corporate governance critics who said the company did well to announce his illness but should have gone further in explaining how it would replace him.
But the board also said it was comfortable with its current succession planning timetable, which contemplates Benmosche staying on until 2012. It plans to look at both internal and external candidates for the job.
“The process would then be concluded when, over the next two years, it is appropriate to name Bob’s eventual successor,” the board said in its statement, which it said was issued unanimously.
Reporting by Ben Berkowitz and Paritosh Bansal; Editing by Phil Berlowitz