Good for the Money (★★★☆☆)

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Bob Benmosche  *  St. Martin’s Press  *  April 12, 2016  *  288 Pages

Advanced Reader Copy received through Amazon Vine.

Bob Benmosche came out of retirement in 2009 to work as CEO of American International Group (AIG), just as the financial services behemoth was struggling to come out from under $182 billion debt (amassed during the great mortgage lending crisis of 2008). Benmosche was the fifth person to act as CEO for the company in about as many years, and, at the time, most everyone believed AIG was going under. Virtually NO ONE thought AIG would ever be able to pay taxpayers back all that money. But Benmosche believed he could turn the company around and, not just erase all that debt, but even create a profit.

At first, I thought this book was going to be a manual of sorts on leadership, but it’s actually more of a memoir about one very specific time and place. Even though Benmosche claims in the introduction that he will “impart as many…leadership lessons as [he] can,” it became clear to me almost immediately, that his main goal, first and foremost, was to tell his story. And once I read through the whole book, I understood why: Benmosche actually wrote this at the end of his life, just before passing away at the age of 70 from complications of lung cancer. Once I figured that out, the tone and content made a lot more sense.

Good for the Money is written by someone who wants to explain and justify his past decisions. Often, Benmosche is defensive and maybe even slightly aggressive. He sounds like a man looking back at the end of his life saying, “See? See what I did? I wasn’t perfect, but I made the best choices I could. It wasn’t easy, but I persevered and something good came out of it.” (And I almost hear him whispering at the end, “And I really want you to think so, too.”)

That this book is more memoir than instruction doesn’t detract from its appeal. I enjoyed reading Good for the Money; I learned a lot about the financial collapse of 2008, the bailouts, and about AIG. I finished the book and felt tremendous respect for Benmosche. I respect what he and his employees were able to do, especially considering the hostile environment in which they accomplished it. I don’t have warm fuzzies for the people who put us in this mess, but I did gain a slightly different perspective, and I always appreciate that.

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