Nearly three weeks following a fourth quarter report of losses totaling approximately $3.04 billion, American International Group and its chief executive board have made a drastic decision in hopes for the better. The decision, while not surprising in AIG’s history of quick turnover-rates, was for current CEO Peter Hancock to step down. AIG shares plunged by more than 9 percent¬¬ the morning after the company announced its greater-than-expected losses for the fourth quarter.
CEO for less than three years at AIG, Hancock had lofty plans from the start of his time at the company. One of these plans included returning $25 billion to shareholders through a combined effort of buybacks of shares and consistent dividend stream for two years—a goal ahead of schedule having returned $13.1 billion to its shareholders at the end of 2016.
In times like these, for companies as large as AIG, it is easy to turn to leadership as the main cause of a crash. This is not always the case, but nonetheless begins to bring question as to whether a change should be made for the sake of progress. This was exactly the case for Hancock, claiming that, even without the full support of AIG’s shareholders, he felt it was both in his own self-interest and in the interest of the entire organization to not further undermine the progress that the company had worked so hard to achieve, even if he was not the main cause of this lack of progress. While Hancock’s successor will be the sixth in just 12 years for AIG, a statistic that does not bode well for the company, many investors and shareholders do agree it is best for the organization as a whole. Carl Icahn, the fourth largest investor in AIG, stands fully behind this change of leadership, saying that there are many people that can turn this company around. Icahn said that he is looking forward to the future of the company.
Once this change in leadership takes place, the big question on shareholders’ minds will be the ability of the new leadership to break up the insurance giant. Decreasing its overall balance sheet numbers through several deals to shrink or sell parts of the company has always been important to AIG. Hancock himself combined 17 deals to shrink the company overall to just over $498 billion, half of what it was during the recession. Icahn, who has about a 5 percent stake in the company, frequently states his ideas for a more regulated supervision of the company, even if it means taking on more capital. In order to take all of these ideas and put them into action, AIG must be diligent in who it chooses to succeed Hancock.
While there are always candidates willing to take up the helm of CEO, times like these often prove to be testing for leaders, forcing AIG to look closely into who can bring its company to prosperity. Hancock has even agreed to stay on until his successor is chosen in hopes of avoiding any damage that can be dealt to its shareholders’ interests resulting from such uncertainty. Regardless of who AIG chooses to fill the shoes of Hancock, its main priority will have to be to continue shedding assets and reducing risk, especially to avoid anything reminiscent of the 2007-08 crisis. Much is unknown, but one thing that is a definite for AIG is that these next few weeks will be crucial to the company.