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The AIG Story Hardcover – January 29, 2013

4.1 out of 5 stars 82 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews


"Captivating. If you think you know AIG, you don't know the half of it without knowing its history. Greenberg and Cunningham splendidly lay out the trials, setbacks and successes of this enormous insurance giant. It's a fun, engrossing read -- and if you're an AIG investor, you're crazy not to put your hands on a copy."
Robert Weinstein, The Street / MSN Money

"Great book. For as much rightful anger and disrespect the letters 'AIG' elicit, this book actually changed my view of the insurance giant. Greenberg and Cunningham detail who they blame for the company's downfall. Don't pretend you don't want to hear the rest of that story."
The Motley Fool

"A fascinating company history and account of how, after Greenberg's ouster in 2005, AIG made disastrous mortgage bets that drove it into the arms of the feds."
The Wall Street Journal

The Financial Times

"Strong, fast-moving and well-crafted.  A remarkable story."
--John R. Coyne Jr., The National Interest

"A useful contribution to the ongoing shaping of the story of the recent financial crisis.  The authors examine Greenberg's career building the biggest insurance company in the world. A Korean War veteran, Greenberg brought Western insurance products to the Soviet Union and Eastern Europe, helped open China to Western finance, and provided indispensable, sometimes covert, services to the U.S. government."
Kirkus Reviews

"The AIG Story is well documented, telling of how the company virtually collapsed [after] Greenberg was pushed out of leadership. The book has much information to share with financial leaders to help grow a business and to protect a company during periods of economic downturns. The narrative is written in a style that is understandable."
William Taylor, ABA Banking Journal

From the Author


Hank Greenberg: Chairman and CEO of C.V. Starr & Co., which he joined as vice president in 1960, becoming a director in 1965 and Chairman and CEO in 1968.  From 1967 until 2005, he was CEO of American International Group, which grew during that period from a scattered collection of insurance businesses worth about $300 million to the largest insurance company in world history, worth more than $180 billion.  After he left AIG, the company's new leadership embarked on a radical transformation that put the company at the heart of the 2008 financial crisis and nearly destroyed it.  He has been among the most active and influential international business executives in history.

Lawrence Cunningham: the Henry St. George Tucker III Research Professor at George Washington University Law School and Director of GW's Center for Law, Economics and Finance (C-LEAF) in New York.  He is the author of numerous books, including The Essays of Warren Buffett: Lessons for Corporate America, and articles, some of which are drawn on in The AIG Story on topics such as corporate governance and the financial crisis of 2008.   On Amazon, Cunningham has been ranked one of the top 100 authors in the category of business and investing.

Product Details

  • Hardcover: 352 pages
  • Publisher: Wiley; 1 edition (January 29, 2013)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1118345878
  • ISBN-13: 978-1118345870
  • Product Dimensions: 6.3 x 1.2 x 9.3 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (82 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #55,329 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
One of the intellectual defects of many of those that operate in the legal profession is an arrogance that after a brief time looking into any company or business that they can understand how to operate that business. As a lawyer and a business operator, I recognize this character default across many of the best lawyers in the profession. The truly great lawyers have the humility to know their profession, know it well and have both grace and experience to understand the limitations of their own knowledge of any successful business. It seems that the "truly great" lawyers were completely absent from the scene as AIG's carefully controlled risk allocation and governance were dismantled on the alter of political ego which was masking legal incompetence. This book demonstrates beyond any question how the arrogance of power and the lack of humility and experience of Eliot Spitzer directly led to the destruction of AIG and its looting by Hank Paulson and Timothy Geitner. If you are political, this book is rich in examples of incompetence and moral corruption of the Democrats and Republicans. Whether it is more incompetence or more moral corruption, the reader can decide. But make no mistake, this should be required reading for anyone entering public service, especially prosecutorial work involving companies. By removing Greenberg -- the person who understood the global insurance business model and the proper allocation and monitoring of risk -- and inserting an "independent" person who then let the tight reigns off of the group issuing CMOs, the business was destroyed. Little known in the financial crisis is that AIG was the one firm that retained many assets.Read more ›
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Format: Kindle Edition
My one sentence verdict: A fascinating book, and as a personal skeptic of both Wall Street and of Washington, I found this book gave me a lot to think about. I loved it, I'm glad I bought it, and I think you should too. And I'm not one for faint praise.

I found this story of AIG offered three interesting aspects useful to both laypersons and experts interested in finance. First, it provided a personal story of the Hank Greenberg model of corporate management. The book makes a compelling case that Hank Greenberg was one of those corporate personalities who was able to turn personal discipline into company discipline through the power of managerial motivation. Whether you have a taste for tomes of finance or not, that aspect makes this book useful to enthusiasts of motivation books and managerial books alike.

Second, the book offers unique insights into the evolution of modern finance from the perspective of an entrepreneur who lived the evolution, tempered with the perspective of a co-author with a healthy skepticism but a high level of training in the discipline. Third, the book offers unique insights into the events leading up to the financial crisis of 2008, and makes a credible case that without Mr. Greenberg at the helm the company's problems quickly grew.

I hope readers of this review appreciate that I loved the book, I'm glad I bought it and I would have done so at twice the price. Most importantly from my view, the book introduces an important theme that corporate governance reforms championed as part of the Dodd-Frank Act may have, get ready, actually played a part in causing the financial crisis of 2008!
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Format: Hardcover
Although two co-authors are identified, Maurice R. ("Hank") Greenberg provides what would normally be (or at least be viewed as) memoir material for which Lawrence A. Cunningham then created a context, a frame-of-reference, that draws upon Greenberg's contributions, of course, but also those from dozens of other soyrces. Cunningham seems to have made every possible effort to remain objective. He devised the structure, conducted countless interviews, and drafted the story's narrative. The book is research-driven (check out the "Notes," Pages 265-308) and, as Cunningham notes, "told in the third person. But it is very much Greenberg's story and a personal one at that." I view Cunningham's role primarily as that of a research scholar who "sets the table" with a wealth of historical material in combination with personal accounts provided by Greenberg, of course, but also from other knowledgeable sources, identified within 43 pages of annotated notes.

The focus of the narrative is on the evolution of Greenberg's career from 1952 (at age 27) after returning from service as an officer in the U.S. Army until 2011 when he has embarked on new adventures in the vineyards of free enterprise, building (rebuilding?) C.V. Starr & Company and Starr International Company (SICO) together with several subsidiaries that pre-date AIG. Appropriately, the focus of most of the book is on Greenberg's years at American International Group (AIG), especially during the last decade when internal power plays led to his forced retirement. Also in the same year (2005), then New York Attorney General, Eliot Spitzer made heavily-publicized allegations concerning accounting improprieties. However, revealingly, no criminal charges were ever brought and most of the civil charges were dropped.
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