How's this for an unusual corporate dispute? The former CEO of American International Group (AIG), Maurice R. "Hank" Greenberg, is fighting to stop his former company from claiming that it turns 100 years old this year.

The dispute comes down to this, according to a report in The Wall Street Journal:

  • AIG says its roots go back to a Shanghai company founded in 1919.
  • Greenberg says it dates only to 1967, when he consolidated "various operations" that had all grown out of that original 1919 Shanghai company.

Why would Greenberg care? By the way, he's 93 himself. I think three reasons.

First, he's been battling AIG since he was forced out a decade ago.

Second, he's launched a competing insurance giant--and he would presumably like to claim the 100-year mark for his own efforts.

But I think the third reason is more existential.

Another CEO explained it to me years ago, when he hired me to ghostwrite a book about his company: It's that when you look back at your life's work, you can either write the history yourself, or you can stay silent--and know that if there's a good story, somebody else will write it the way they want it to be told.

It's part of your legacy as a business owner and creator. So laugh a bit at the details of Greenberg's latest fight with AIG, sure. And then maybe start asking yourself: What's my legacy going to be? And who will tell the story?

Here's what else I'm reading today:

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Published on: Jan 30, 2019
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