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AIG investors might fight takeover

September 23, 2008|From Bloomberg News

American International Group Inc. investors trying to derail a U.S. takeover of the insurer might demand a shareholder vote on the $85-billion deal, a person familiar with the situation said.

The investors decided at a New York meeting Monday to ask AIG for data so they could raise money and keep the federal government from taking a 79.9% stake, said the person, who declined to be identified because talks were private.

Maurice "Hank" Greenberg, AIG's former chief executive, and representatives for Eli Broad, Shelby Davis of Davis Selected Advisors and Bill Miller of Legg Mason Inc. attended, the person said.

The insurer, crippled by losses tied to the worst U.S. housing slump since the Great Depression, agreed Sept. 16 to turn over control to the government in exchange for a federal loan of as much as $85 billion. The original terms said that the government would receive warrants equal to the 79.9% stake and that shareholder approval would be sought. A new description of the deal filed Friday omitted any mention of warrants or a shareholder vote.

The investors "discussed possible alternatives that may exist that could relieve the taxpayers' burden while protecting" AIG's customers, policyholders and employees, said Mickey Kantor, a lawyer for the shareholders.

The group is advised by Roger Altman, chief executive of Evercore Partners Inc., and may ask AIG for information on its balance sheet, the person said. Kantor is a former U.S. trade representative and secretary of Commerce in the Clinton administration.

Shares of AIG, the largest U.S. insurer by assets, climbed 87 cents, or 23%, to $4.72. The stock sold for more than $72 a share less than two years ago.

"To pull this off strikes me as terrifically tricky," said James Cox, a professor at Duke University who specializes in securities law. "A defensive takeover by investors of their own firm, on this scale, has never happened before."

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