American International Group Inc. has picked Jay Wintrob to run its U.S. life and retirement operations — and hinted that it may want to keep them.

AIG, New York, has named Wintrob president and chief executive officer of domestic life and retirement services.

Wintrob, who started out as a lawyer and came to AIG when the company acquired SunAmerica, previously was president of AIG retirement services. His position is a new position.

AIG also has named Mary Jane Fortin president and chief executive officer of American General Life Companies. Fortin has been senior executive president, chief administrative officer and chief financial officer of the domestic life companies. She has a background in acounting. Fortin succeeds Matthew Winter, who has been promoted to AIG vice chairman of administration.

“I am very enthusiastic about the growth potential of the domestic life and retirement services businesses, and believe these market-leading companies will prosper under the strong leadership of Jay Wintrob,” Robert Benmosche, the new chairman of AIG, says about the appointment.

Benmosche says he believes the domestic life and retirement services group “can operate with greater autonomy going forward and build upon the improved operating income results delivered in the first half of 2009.”

In the past few months, AIG has emphasized its interest in selling the U.S. life and retirement operations, not simply giving them more autonomy.

InvestmentNews reported earlier this week that AIG has backed away from previously announced plans to sell its broker-dealer networks and now wants to keep those networks.

AIG’s domestic life and retirement operations have 16 million customers and $213 billion in admitted assets, and they generated a total of $17 billion in sales for the 12 months ending June 30, AIG says.