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Good for the Money: My Fight to Pay Back America Hardcover – April 12, 2016
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"In a country where business executives are afraid and and timid, and often undeserving of everything from their high pay to their credentials as "leaders" along came Bob Benmosche, a genuine person who simply believed in doing what was right for his employees, his shareholders and, most importantly, his country. I want this book read by all who want to know the truth of the Great Recession, because the legacy of that terrible era is a disgrace for all those who worked in the greedy world of finance, the proximate cause of so much pain for everyday Americans. Not true. This man was the lone hero of the era and Good for the Money, in Bob's own straight-shooting words, is proof positive of what happens when one man decides to make a difference. He was the Hercules of his time and his posterity is sealed by his masterful autobiography."--Jim Cramer, Host of CNBC's Mad Money
“Bob Benmosche’s memoir is a highly informative and worthy read. Good for the Money: My Fight to Pay Back America is by turns candid, compelling and sometimes unconventional–-like the man himself. Bob’s indefatigable spirit, personal memories and fascinating career are all revealed here with unusual honesty and riveting action. Anyone can learn from the straightforward lessons he shares from his considerable experience running complex enterprises in challenging times.”--Jamie Dimon, Chairman & CEO of JPMorgan Chase & Co.
"Bob Benmosche was the most effective negotiator I ever met and a man of great integrity. Good for the Money--both memoir and negotiation handbook--offers essential insight into the business philosophy of this legendary figure."--Kenneth R. Feinberg, Treasury Department “Pay Czar” for TARP Executive Compensation
"Bob Benmosche was a titan in America--as a business leader, citizen, and patriot. This book is a must read for all who love America."--Kenneth G. Langone, Co-Founder of the Home Depot
"In this no-holds-barred, captivating memoir, legendary CEO Benmosche recounts leading the remarkable turnaround of “too big to fail” insurance giant AIG and shares leadership lessons from a stellar career...his often irreverent look at the AIG turnaround is the most entertaining section, complete with skirmishes with the media, struggles to transform the corporate culture, and pitched battles with government appointees and Congress. This is a definite must-read for anyone who wants to learn about the financial crisis, turnarounds in business, or leadership."--Publishers Weekly (Starred Review)
“Remarkably candid and compelling … Benmosche stuck to his beliefs and here shows readers what it means to be an authentic leader. ‘I am not a liquidator. I don’t liquidate things. I build them.’ Too bad there aren’t many of his ilk today. Pair this with the movie The Big Short to understand why Benmosche was a one-of-a-kind executive.”--Booklist (Starred Review)
About the Author
ROBERT BENMOSCHE was President and CEO of AIG from 2009 to 2014 and pioneered policies that saved the company from bankruptcy, enabling it to repay its debts to the government within three years. He was instrumental in taking MetLife - where he worked for 11 years, as COO and CEO - public. Once a top executive at Paine Webber and at Chase Manhattan, Bob Benmosche was also a U.S. army veteran. Good for the Money is his first book.
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Although the author warns the reader early on that he will serve management lessons, this is no management manual: bringing your girl friend to the company you lead and continuing that relationship is hardly good advice. There is no mention of how he reorganized the sprawling company that was AIG, how he made it more efficient, how he simplified reporting lines, improved systems or promoted accountability.
Rather, one gets the sense that he early on grasped the few key divestitures he would want to do at the right price, and stuck to basics, namely, pick good and loyal lieutenants, give the troops hope, motivate them, have their backs and insist on performance. It is no surprise that he admired Ronald Reagan.
It is also a moving book, as Benmosche was a more complex man than his reputation made him to be. How he dealt with cancer was admirable. Perhaps what most attracted me was his unusual combination of in your face bluntness and pudor, and of course his courage.
It remains to be seen whether Benmosche rebuilt a durable company or whether he held it together through the force of his personality. But there is no doubt in my mind that he was an exceptional man.
The government ended up eventually pumping in over $185 million to keep the firm afloat and some months after the original announcement, Bob Benmosche was brought in to run AIG. He had previously headed Met Life (of the Snoopy ads and blimp and successfully took them public) and this book is his story to save the firm and return funds to the taxpayers. Initially, the thought was the firm would be liquidated and proceeds returned to the government with a net result that they would ultimately be out "only" $37 to $65 billion. Bob had a different idea.
I have met a number of leaders in my life. Presidents (Kennedy and the Bushes), Congressfolk (Bobby Kennedy, Tip O'Neil, Tom McIntyre, Judd Gregg) and an assortment of billionaires (Templeton, Gates and Huizenga), I was not prepared for Bob. At the first of his meetings before our group, we got to seen the unvarnished Benmosche, a man as profane as they come. Bold, brash and aggressive would be putting it mildly. (I am often critical of Millenial writers who cram their books with profanity but here is a boomer like myself carrying on and he doesn't hide it in the book, just who he is.) He hated the idea of the company being broken up at fire sale prices and the U.S. taxpayer being stuck with the tab. He wanted to deal with the issues affecting each division, return them to profitable condition, then sell off what did not fit the idea of a true insurance conglomerate. (This included selling off our advisor companies to a private equity group a few years later.)
Who wanted to prevent his following this course of action? Most of the government folks he had to work with, several of his board members (including the chairman), and members of his own legal team. Who was on his side? The employees and contractors since he returned a sense of pride to the organization, gave the workers their freedom to perform, and pulled no punches in laying out where he wanted to go and what the challenges were. He also had to deal with the widespread scorn being heaped on the firm and issues like his Croatian vacation shortly after being hired and the payment of "retention bonuses" to those in the division that blew the firm up, protesters at headquarters and physical threats against employees (to the point where some were being asked to remove their children from affected schools), and the "clawback" of bonuses from those who had already left the "sinking ship".
A year into his task he was diagnosed with cancer but did his best to hide the nature of it, just announced he was undergoing chemo and the company doctors would keep the board informed of his progress. In one meeting I had with him in the hallway of large hotel, I wished him the best and he commented "So far, so good. Think I can beat this effer". Typical Bob. The book was interesting to me in that the medical issues are finally discussed. He had lung cancer and had been given a year at most. Then the good news came that a DNA analysis showed that the type of cancer he had was a type responsive to a new drug called Tarceva. The chances of that being the case were only 1 in 7. He went on to live a further 4 years, demanding work schedule and all.
He forced out the chairman, worked out programs with a resistive government and managed to repay all the funds advanced plus a significant profit to the taxpayers.
I'm giving this 5 stars, not because it is literary gold, it clearly isn't, but out of respect for someone who accomplished some amazing things against significant odds and has told a wonderful no-holds-barred story of how he pulled it off. It is interesting from a historical, financial, and personal angle and will probably appeal to folks just looking for a good story. RIP, Bob, it was a pleasure to have known you.