American International Group says it is buying TV ads to run during the NCAA and NFL championship games, the Today Show and Good Morning America, newspaper ads in New York, Los Angeles and Houston (where AIG has major operations), additional ads in the financial press and on Google's YouTube, Yahoo, MSN.com, with the message, "Thank You America," highlighting the insurer's current managers' gratitude for its government takeover and taxpayer financing during the late 2000s financial crisis, when the company would otherswise have failed, due to billions in losses from defaulted mortgages and bad securities bets.
According to AIG, "through asset sales and other actions by AIG, the Federal Resreve, and the U.S. Department of the Treasury, America recovered that $182.3 billion, plus a positive return of $22.7 billion," clinched by Treasury's Dec. 14 sale of its last $7.6 billion in AIG shares.
Not content with bragging they've paid back America, with interest, AIG's ads will "also show how AIG helped American communities rebuild" by paying claims from Midwest tornadoes and Hurricane Sandy. "We thank America for allowing us to insure a brighter future and to bring on tomorrow," says AIG boss Robert H. Benmosche in a statement. AIG spokesman Jon Diat assures me the ad campaign is genuine.
AIG's stock market value has lately topped $50 billion, more than double its level during the crisis but still off more than $100 billion from its peak levels in the mid-2000s, when it was the largest U.S.-based insurer and one of the Dow-Jones 30 industrial stocks.
What's AIG now? "Our aspirations will center around property casualty and life and retirement, boosting our return on equity, reducing costs, and efficiently managing our capital," Diat told me. "We’re a much smaller company" after shedding businesses like the Wilmington-based auto insurance service unit Zurich Group's Farmers Insurance/21st Century picked up in a $1.9 billion deal in 2009. King of Prussia-based real estate mogul Mitchell Morgan also benefited from AIG's crack-up, buying AIG-owned apartment buildings at a depressed-market discount (with a little assistance from the late U.S. Sen. Arlen Specter, R/D-Pa.)