NEWSMAKER-AIA’s Tucker tough on soccer field and in boardroom

* Former pro soccer player, now Chelsea fan

* Built Prudential Plc’s Asia business, former Pru CEO

* Now in charge of soon to be public AIA

By Myles Neligan and Denny Thomas

LONDON/HONG KONG, Oct 28 (BestGrowthStock) – On the eve of Mark
Tucker’s 50th birthday, the insurance executive suffered a
broken nose when an opponent headbutted him on the soccer
field.

The injury did nothing to stop him from celebrating with
friends that night.

“At his 50th birthday party he was sitting there with two
black eyes and a broken nose,” said Jim Sutcliffe, a former CEO
of Anglo-South African insurer Old Mutual (OML.L: ) who worked
with Tucker during an earlier role as head of Prudential’s U.S.
unit.

“He’s very competitive, although not in a nasty way,”
Sutcliffe added.

Now 52 and the CEO of AIA, Tucker, will have to relish the
bruising confrontations he faces on the business pitch as he
squares up to AIA’s (1299.HK: ) growing band of rivals. As of
Friday, AIA will be publicly traded for the first time ever,
expecting to raise $17.8 billion in Hong Kong’s largest IPO and
the third-largest ever.
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For BREAKINGVIEWS on AIA valuation [ID:nLDE6930KI]

Factbox on world’s biggest stock offerings [ID:nN17141638]

Insider clip on IPOs: http://link.reuters.com/dar67m

Graphic on top global IPOs: http://link.reuters.com/kum57p

Graphic on AIA in Asia http://link.reuters.com/xed59p
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Tucker is an Asia veteran with competitive instincts honed
by an early career as a pro soccer player, with stints at
English clubs Barnet, Rochdale and the Wolverhampton Wanderers.

Tucker was made AIA CEO in July. His appointment came after
AIA parent American International Group Inc (AIG.N: ) pushed
ahead with IPO plans following Prudential plc’s (PRU.L: ) botched
takeover attempt.

The Londoner was previously Pru’s chief executive, though
he left before Pru launched its AIA bid.

After that failed process, AIG CEO Robert Benmosche needed
a fresh face to lead AIA ahead of the IPO, and nobody fitted
the bill better than Tucker, who had spent about 17 years in
Asia.

“He is the architect behind what Prudential is in Asia
today, in terms of the geographic spread and depth of the
businesses,” a former AIA employee said.

Having the Asia experience will be a huge advantage to
Tucker as he builds AIA from wounds inflicted from AIG’s near
collapse.

Tucker built the Prudential Asia business along a federated
structure, where each country office enjoyed a lot of autonomy.
That is slightly different from the AIA model, where the
regional headquarters was much more in command.

“It would be interesting to see how that sort of culture
permeates through AIA,” said the former employee, who declined
to be identified as he was not authorised to speak to media.

SLEEPLESS NIGHTS, EMPTY FRIDGE

Tucker’s passion for work is legendary and he is known to
spend sleepless nights in pursuit of work.

“He doesn’t sleep, he never used to sleep. He’d be on the
road and he wouldn’t sleep for a week, and that kind of suits
the drive and energy that you get in Asia,” Sutcliffe said.
Tucker has one child and is expecting another baby with his
wife, Janet.

Sutcliffe said he once visited Tucker in Lansing, Michigan,
where Pru’s U.S. unit, Jackson National Life, is based. Tucker
wasn’t there, but with the door open, Sutcliffe let himself and
his family in, and headed to the kitchen.

Seeking some tea and a snack for his wife and children,
Sutcliffe opened the massive refrigerator, only to find it
bare.

“Nothing in there, just nothing,” his friend recalled.
“That illustrates how Mark lives — he didn’t cook, he ordered
in the food and he was busy at work.”

Luckily for Tucker, the AIA CEO job came to him with the
worst of the financial crisis behind, and the business
stabilising. Still, Tucker has a few battles on his hands.

He has to find ways to lessen AIA’s reliance on agents to
drive insurance premiums, something its rivals including
Prudential have done better. Tucker himself admitted recently
that boosting bancassurance — selling insurance products
through banks — is a key priority.

Then there are the people issues to deal with. Before the
abrupt change of power at AIA in July, former CEO Mark Wilson
was credited with holding the company together, when AIG itself
was on the brink of collapse. Wilson was well respected within
AIA, and even today he has his followers.

With Tucker now at the helm, the possibility that other Pru
employees could cross over may put AIA employees on edge.

“The challenge ahead of him is melding the disparate
parties,” the former employee said.

As a manager, he is said to be tough and fair. Unlike AIG’s
CEO, Robert Benmosche, who is outspoken and colourful, Tucker
is seen as more low key.

“He is not a slick sort of guy,” said an analyst at a
European brokerage. “And that is what you want in the insurance
business. You want the boring guys who have been doing it for
20 years. The more boring an insurance executive is, the
better.”

(Editing by Michael Flaherty and Bill Tarrant)

NEWSMAKER-AIA’s Tucker tough on soccer field and in boardroom