Colin Barr

Following the money in banking, economics, and Washington

AIG sells consumer finance unit

August 11, 2010: 10:23 AM ET

AIG cinched a deal to sell most of its consumer finance unit to investment manager Fortress.

Under the deal, Fortress (FIG) will take over 80% of American General Finance and AIG (AIG) will hold onto the rest. Further terms weren't disclosed, but the arrangement looks like a win for AIG chief Robert Benmosche (right) because it allows AIG to raise cash as it seeks to pay down its obligations to taxpayers stemming from its 2008 bailout.

Sells consumer unit

"This transaction marks another important step in our ongoing restructuring process as we seek to monetize non-core assets and pay back U.S. taxpayers," said Benmosche. "In Fortress, we have found an excellent partner for this terrific franchise. We believe in AGF's solid business model, which is why we are retaining a 20% stake in the business as part of this transaction."

American General has lent money to more than a million families across the U.S., Puerto Rico, the Virgin Islands, and the United Kingdom, AIG said. The firm makes bill consolidation loans, home equity loans, personal loans, home improvement loans, and loans to help consumers manage unexpected expenses.

AIG bought American General in 2001 as then CEO Hank Greenberg expanded the insurance giant's reach. The unit posted an $11 million operating loss in the second quarter, which marked a sharp improvement from the year-ago $202 million loss, as the company set aside less money to cushion against future loan losses.

AIG's investment in American General is valued at $2.4 billion, but the Financial Times reported last week that the firm conceded it might incur a loss on the sale as it raised $4 billion to repay a federal loan to its aircraft leasing business.

AIG shares are up 23% this year but dropped 3% in a market pullback Wednesday.

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Colin Barr
Colin Barr
Senior Writer, Fortune

Colin Barr has covered finance for Fortune.com since November 2007. Previously he was a writer and editor for TheStreet.com, winning a 2006 Society of American Business Editors and Writers award for "The Five Dumbest Things on Wall Street," and for Dow Jones Newswires. He is a 1991 graduate of Penn State and lives in Port Washington, N.Y., with his wife Meena Bose and their two kids.

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