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Backgrounder: American International Group, Inc.
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16:14, September 17, 2008

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American International Group, Inc. (AIG), as the country's biggest insurer, provides insurance, financial and investment products and services to both businesses and individuals in more than 130 countries and jurisdictions through its subsidiaries.

AIG's major product and service groupings are General Insurance, Life Insurance & Retirement Services, Financial Services and Asset Management.

The company is based at the American International Building in New York City. Its UK headquarters is located on Fenchurch Street in London, UK. Continental Europe operations are based in La Defense, Paris and its Asian headquarter is in Hong Kong.

AIG was originally a small insurance agency established by Cornelius Vander Starr in Shanghai in 1919. As the first westerner in Shanghai to sell insurance to the Chinese, Starr was very successful with the business in Asia, then he expanded it to other markets, including Latin America, Europe, and the Middle East.

In 1962, Maurice R. "Hank" Greenberg, took over the company's management, and shifted the company's U.S. focus from personal insurance to high-margin corporate. In 1968, Greenberg was named Starr's successor.

The company went public in 1969. It became a component of the Dow Jones Industrial Average on April 8, 2004, and was the 18th-largest company in the world, according to the 2008 Forbes Global 2000 list.

Greenberg resigned as the company's CEO in February 2005 and was succeeded by Martin Sullivan, who began his career at AIG as a clerk in its London office in 1970.

In September 2007, AIG announced that it completed the merger of a wholly owned subsidiary of AIG with 21st Century Insurance Group.

On Sept. 17, 2008, the U.S. Federal Reserve announced that the Federal Reserve Bank of New York will lend an 85 billion-U.S. dollar-bridge-loan to AIG to save it from bankruptcy.

In return, the U.S. government will receive a 79.9 percent equity interest in AIG and has the right to veto payment of dividends to common preferred shareholders in the deal.


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