At first glance, it'd be hard for investors to not be excited about the big moves that insurance giant AIG (NYSE: AIG ) announced this week. For starters, it sold its huge aircraft leasing arm to a consortium of Chinese buyers at a valuation of roughly $5.3 billion. Perhaps even more notably, the U.S. Treasury announced it will be selling its remaining shares of AIG and profitably exiting a bailout that many thought would be a disaster.
The sale of International Lease Finance Corp. (ILFC) not only sharpens AIG's focus, but frees up the balance sheet by shedding a capital-intensive arm. The Treasury exit is a notable symbolic victory, but it may also make the company more flexible in hiring and operating practices now that Uncle Sam isn't a shareholder.
But the moves also put a big question mark next to the future of Robert Benmosche, the CEO behind AIG's impressive turnabout. As it stands, Benmosche has already stayed at AIG longer than originally expected, but he did so in large part to check off certain additional milestones -- like unloading ILFC and ushering the Treasury out. With these two major announcements coming on the heels of each other, investors have to wonder if Benmosche's exit is nigh.
The Wall Street Journal picked up on this concern as well and noted: "[His] spokesman said the 68-year-old CEO is prepared to stay on as CEO through 2014, when he expects the board to reach a decision on his successor."
That gives investors some breathing room, but not a lot. At this point, there isn't a lot of clarity on the CEO position, except that Benmosche isn't long in the spot. Presently, Peter Hancock is the only name that seems to consistently pop up in succession talk. He's the current CEO of AIG's property and casualty arm and is in the process of trying to turn that business around.
On the bright side, Benmosche will leave -- whether it's tomorrow or deep into 2014 -- with AIG in a far better position than where it was when he took over. Investors can also take some solace in the fact that he'll be participating in the process of picking the next CEO. However, this is a process that investors will want to keep a close eye on since we've seen just how badly things can go at AIG when it's mismanaged.
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