What Bailout? AIG CEO Prefers Making Wine

Under fire for blunt talk, Benmosche pursues real passion: grapes
By Jason Farago,  Newser Staff
Posted Sep 3, 2009 9:25 AM CDT
AIG chief Robert Benmosche.   (AIG)
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(Newser) – New AIG chief Robert Benmosche has garnered reams of bad coverage since taking over the train-wreck insurer—and nearly a month into the job, he's still at his holiday villa in Croatia. Reuters visited Benmosche at his coastal idyll and finds his true passion to be not finance but the Zinfandel grapes he's growing. "I want the estate I leave behind to be a viable business," Benmosche says—by which he means his vineyard, not bailed-out AIG.

Perceptions of corporate excess aren't Benmosche's only problem; recently, he's made incendiary comments about "crazies" in Washington and the "criminal" Andrew Cuomo. The Wall Street Journal says several AIG board members have been shocked by his behavior, and one said the company's chairman may be called to rein him in. Benmosche said he was talking tough to reassure demoralized employees, but admitted being "too aggressive" when he said Cuomo "doesn't deserve to be in government."