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Jim Millstein, player in AIG turnaround, to leave Treasury

By Brady Dennis
Washington Post Staff Writer
Wednesday, February 23, 2011; 10:03 PM

Jim Millstein, who as the Treasury's chief restructuring officer helped engineer a turnaround of bailed-out insurance giant American International Group that could result in a profit for taxpayers, will leave the agency at the end of the week.

"I basically put myself out of a job," Millstein said Wednesday, noting that many bailed-out companies have regained their footing as the crisis has abated. "The need for a chief restructuring officer is really part of the past."

Millstein, 55, a former banker at the investment group Lazard, arrived at Treasury in spring 2009, at the height of the crisis. He helped shape the financial overhaul legislation that passed Congress last summer, the administration's proposals to revamp the housing finance system and the government bailouts of companies such as Citigroup and Ally Financial.

But his highest-profile and most scrutinized assignment was the unpopular bailout of AIG, which at its height consisted of a government commitment of more than $182 billion.

Working with AIG executives and officials at the Federal Reserve Bank of New York, Millstein developed a plan to sell assets to pay off AIG's Fed loans, convert the Treasury's massive stake in the company into common stock and sell the shares over time. That strategy has proved largely successful. AIG recently paid the last of its Fed debt, and taxpayers stand to profit when Treasury begins selling its nearly 1.7 billion shares this year.

Millstein said he hasn't decided on his next move but is considering public- and private-sector jobs in Washington, where he plans to remain with his wife and two teenage children. But first, he plans to take time to decompress from dealing with the "$182 billion gorilla."

It was "an unparalleled opportunity," Millstein said of the experience. "I wouldn't trade it for anything."

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