(Bloomberg) — In January, Brian Schreiber was working nearly around the clock preparing an investor presentation on American International Group Inc.’s new direction, called Simplifying AIG. On Feb. 15, Schreiber simplified right out of a job.
Just as AIG prepares to sell billions in assets, the company is losing its biggest dealmaker amid tensions in the executive suite.
With his thick-rimmed glasses and slicked-back hair, Schreiber, 50, could be arrogant, political and disdainful of others, traits that may have prevented him from getting AIG’s top job, according to bankers and colleagues who worked with him. But over his 19 years with AIG, nobody could match his knowledge of the company and the ferocity of his advocacy, they said.
“Each successive CEO knew that Brian knew more about the inner workings of AIG, which is an enormously complex beast, than anybody else — period,” said Christopher Cole, the former co-chairman of investment banking at Goldman Sachs Group Inc.
In a statement issued through AIG, Schreiber said he was leaving to pursue new opportunities. He declined to comment further. The insurer’s senior executives often disagreed on strategy, according to people with direct knowledge.
“Our entire executive leadership team partnered closely together and were completely aligned on the development of our strategy,” AIG said in an e-mailed statement.
Schreiber’s tenure at AIG spanned the company’s era of dominance and growth as the world’s biggest insurer, its calamitous fall in the subprime-mortgage debacle, its post- bailout return to profitability and its recent tussle with activist investors who want to break it into smaller pieces. He worked for six chief executive officers and arranged transactions worth $265 billion. In 2008, he helped negotiate a government rescue that would swell to $182.3 billion.
One of the activist investors, the hedge-fund firm run by billionaire John Paulson, considered Schreiber capable of executing the restructuring they favored, people with direct knowledge said in January. AIG subsequently said Paulson would be nominated to its board.
A representative for Paulson & Co. declined to comment. AIG shares fell 1.8 percent on Feb. 16, the day after Schreiber left, the sharpest drop in the Standard & Poor’s 500 Insurance Index.
“Brian served with passion and dedication in several key operating and transactional roles,” CEO Peter Hancock said in an e-mail sent to AIG employees after 6 p.m. on Feb. 15, the Presidents Day holiday. “Brian has demonstrated his deep knowledge of the company and industry expertise at every turn, and most recently, was instrumental as chief strategy officer in developing and driving the roll-out of our new strategy.”
That strategy will be implemented with few executives who were around when AIG’s market value surpassed $200 billion. While AIG has shrunk since then, it still operates in more than 100 countries with more than 60,000 employees.
Other recent departures from AIG include Seraina Maag, who oversaw regional operations, John Doyle, who led the business serving commercial clients, and Chief Financial Officer David Herzog.
Hancock, who joined the insurer in 2010 after years as a bank executive, moved Schreiber to his strategy role from deputy chief investment officer last year. That cleared room for Hancock’s former J.P. Morgan & Co. colleague, Doug Dachille, to manage the insurer’s portfolio.
Alon Neches will take on Schreiber’s duties overseeing mergers and acquisitions. He report to the new CFO, according to a person familiar with the change. No one will hold the post of strategy chief.
“We have a dynamic new leadership team that is highly skilled and well positioned to lead our company’s continuing transformation,” AIG said in its statement.
Schreiber graduated from New York University and received an MBA from Columbia University. His résumé included Lehman Brothers Holdings Inc. and closely held Bass Brothers Enterprises Inc. when AIG’s Maurice “Hank” Greenberg hired him in 1997.
Greenberg built AIG into the world’s largest insurer before departing in 2005 amid a probe into the company’s accounting. He and Schreiber worked on AIG’s most transformative deals, including the 2001 takeover of American General Corp. for more than $20 billion. People who worked with the duo described Schreiber as “Hank’s helper” and “wunderkind.”
Their close relationship crumbled when Schreiber opted to stay at AIG after Greenberg’s exit, according to Morris Offit, an AIG board member from 2005 to 2013. Schreiber worked with regulators to review the company’s books, people with direct knowledge said.
AIG eventually restated earnings and settled the issue with regulators, including the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission and the New York Attorney General’s office, as part of a $1.64 billion agreement.