Today's New York Times again seeks to whip up populist anger against American International Group, the once-mega insurer that has fallen on hard times. Well, most of it anyway.
But bits and pieces of what was once a trillion-dollar empire are still doing quite nicely, including employees who continue to draw million dollar bonuses - to the righteous consternation of Congress.
One such piece is a luscious 500-acre golf course straddling Connecticut and New York with the idyllic name "Morefar Back O'Beyond." The course is private and, therefore off limits, as the Times' reporters found out when they were unceremoniously escorted from the premises.
Local residents and duffers are angry about this beautiful and virtually unused golf course. Rumors have spread about sand traps made of crushed granite, bronze sculptures, and guests who arrive on floatplanes. Residents want this course open to the public. After all, AIG is a public company, 80 percent owned by taxpayers, is it not?
AIG may be public, but Morefar and a lot of other pieces that are part of the AIG puzzle are not. The golf course actually belongs to Bermuda-based Starr International, a private investment firm with $20 billion in assets. And Starr International, for all intents and purposes, belongs to former AIG Chairman and CEO Hank Greenberg, who is Chairman and CEO of Starr International.
Forced out of AIG in 2005, Greenberg didn't leave empty handed. He took artwork, his dog's medical records (yes, this was part of a lawsuit) and two companies, of which one was Starr International. In addition to the lovely golf course, Starr International owns nearly 300 million shares of AIG stock, which was worth $18 billion at the time AIG split from Greenberg and Starr.
AIG sued Greenberg and Starr to get its shares back, claiming they were part of AIG's retirement plan. But a jury disagreed. Greenberg won and it's doubtful if any other suit would be successful, including getting back the golf course. So, the bottom line: no public duffers allowed at Morefar. To misquote Mark Twain, Morefar remains "a good walk, unspoiled."
Golfers upset that they can't play at Morefar, which probably includes a lot of Times readers, should bend their nine-irons over the heads of those in the legal system and the jury that awarded Greenberg all that stock.
And as for Hank, The Times reports that he has a home near Morefar so he can oversee his spread like Ben Cartwright at the Ponderosa. What a Bonanza.