Bailed-out insurer American International Group Inc (AIG) named former Prudential plc Chief Executive Mark Tucker as head of its Asia life insurance business, AIA, and said it would seek to list AIA on the Hong Kong stock exchange.
The abrupt removal of Mark Wilson as AIA CEO follows a boardroom battle at AIG, which culminated in the resignation of AIG's Chairman Harvey Golub last week. Wilson was instrumental in holding AIA together when AIG was on the brink of collapse.
AIG Chief Executive Officer Robert H. Benmosche and Golub were at loggerheads over the future of AIA and that acrimony intensified after British insurer Prudential's $35.5 billion bid for AIA collapsed last month.
AIG gave no explanation for ousting Wilson, who was well regarded within AIA. Wilson had threatened to resign if the Pru deal had proceeded, which put him at odds with Benmosche.
Tucker, who is an old Asia hand, was the chief executive of Prudential Corporation Asia for a decade to 2003. In this role, he propelled Prudential's rapid growth across Asia and established a strong regional presence, AIG said in a statement.
He (Tucker) is certainly a very experienced professional in the industry. But it's too early to say how this will affect the company, said Sally Yim, vice president at Moody's in Hong Kong and senior analyst who covers Asia-Pacific's insurance industry.
Tucker was the group CEO of Prudential plc from May 2005 to September 2009. He had eyed an acquisition of AIA when he was CEO of Prudential, but AIG did not proceed with the sale then.
AIA is already functioning without a chief financial officer and a chief legal counsel, and the company has installed a new CEO just months before a massive IPO. But analysts do not expect Wilson's exit to trigger large scale defections out of AIA.
I guess it's natural to have a few but I doubt there would be significant defections, Yim of Moody's added.
AIG also said it would seek to list American International Assurance Co Ltd (AIA) on the Hong Kong stock exchange, subject to regulatory approvals and market conditions.
Bankers have previously told Reuters that AIA could raise $15 billion through an IPO, which is expected before the end of 2010.
After reviewing various options to monetize AIA's substantial value, we have concluded that an IPO is our best option, Benmosche said in a statement.
Mark Tucker has the public company experience, track record, relationships...that will help us accomplish our ambitious goals of not just taking a company of AIA's size and scope public, but building on this great platform for the long term to create Asia's pre-eminent, publicly traded insurance company, he added.
The move is the latest sign that Benmosche is asserting his authority at AIG, which is nearly 80 percent-owned by the U.S. government.
(Additional reporting by Kei Okamura)
(Editing by Jonathan Hopfner and Muralikumar Anantharaman)