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Oaktree names ex-AIG executive Wintrob as first CEO

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(Bloomberg) — Oaktree Capital Group LLC named Jay Wintrob, the former head of American International Group Inc.’s life insurance business, as its first chief executive officer.

Wintrob, who’s been a member of Oaktree’s board since 2011, announced his departure from AIG last month after he was passed over in the company’s search for a new CEO. He will have primary responsibility for developing and managing Oaktree’s business, according to a statement today from the Los Angeles-based money manager. Bruce Karsh, the firm’s chief investment officer, will become co-chairman with Howard Marks.

Oaktree, which Marks and Karsh helped co-found in 1995, sold shares to the public in 2012 and has grown to oversee about $91 billion, making it the world’s biggest distressed debt firm. It expanded this year by agreeing to acquire a team of infrastructure investors from Highstar Capital LP and is currently seeking a $10 billion fund with plans to sit on most of the capital until rising markets reverse course.

“Oaktree has expanded substantially in terms of assets, employees, breadth and complexity,” Marks said in the statement. “It’s time for us to turn to a world-class financial services executive.”

Wintrob experience

Wintrob joined AIG as part of the purchase of Eli Broad’s SunAmerica, a deal that was struck in 1998. At AIG, he rose to oversee its U.S. life insurance operation, which has benefitted from investment gains and rising sales of some retirement products. Peter Hancock, who oversaw the property-casualty business, became CEO of the New York-based company last month when Robert Benmosche stepped down.

Wintrob, who’s known Karsh for more than 30 years and has undergraduate and law degrees from the University of California at Berkeley, will start Nov. 1.

Marks has been urging caution in credit investing since last year as yields on junk bonds have dropped and he’s said that investors have provided credit too leniently. Oaktree’s shares have dropped 13 percent this year.