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ZUG, SwitzerlandIt's the season for giving, and Maurice R. Greenberg has begun offering grants from a new charitable foundation supported by the Starr International Co. Ltd.
Based in Zug, Switzerland, Starr International Foundation is chaired by Mr. Greenberg, who heads investment vehicle SICO and managing general agent C.V. Starr & Co., and is the former chairman and chief executive officer of New York-based American International Group Inc.
Otto Saxer, former CEO of Swiss Mobiliar, and John C. Whitehead, former co-chairman of Goldman, Sachs & Co., also serve as directors of the charity, according to a statement from the organization.
The new fund is considered the successor to the Starr International Charitable Trust, founded by Dublin, Ireland-based SICO in 1971. It is distinct from the existing Starr Foundation in New York, which was created by AIG founder Cornelius Vander Starr, and currently has assets of about $3.5 billion.
The Starr International Foundation will be among the world's largest charitable entities, with an endowment expected to exceed $20 billion. It likely will be rivaled only by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, which received a huge boost earlier this year when Berkshire Hathaway Inc. Chairman Warren Buffet announced plans to donate the bulk of his fortune to the organization.
Starr International Foundation is expected to dole out tens of millions of dollars in grant funds each year to support a range of artistic, cultural, educational, environmental, humanitarian, medical and other charitable institutions around the world.
The fund's first major grants, announced last month, included $4 million to Doctors Without Borders/Medecins Sans Frontieres to support international humanitarian work and $1 million to support various Swiss charities.
Battle over shares
The new foundation also could be the latest twist in an ongoing feud between the formerly linked Starr companies and American International Group; a portion of the funds for the new foundation comes from AIG shares owned by SICO.
The Starr International Foundation is the sole stockholder of Starr International AG, a Swiss charitable corporation that holds all of the authorized shares of nonvoting SICO common stock.
SICO, in turn, is a significant shareholder in AIG. According to a 2006 proxy statement from AIG, the Starr Group--which includes SICO and the C.V. Starr agencies--owns 396.1 million, or 15.2%, of AIG's shares.
The ownership of that common stock continues to be hotly disputed.
In October 2005, AIG sued SICO for control of the shares in a counterclaim to a July 2005 complaint by SICO against AIG over ownership of a $15 million art collection, among other things. SICO responded with a suit denying its obligation to surrender control over its AIG stock.
What remains to be seen is whether the creation of the new charity impacts the ongoing legal battle over the AIG shares.
"Since the AIG shares are a subject of pending litigation, we won't comment," a spokesman for AIG said.
A spokeswoman for Mr. Greenberg declined to comment.