AIG's head of comms exits for Alcoa

NEW YORK: The SVP of communications at American International Group (AIG), Nicholas Ashooh, plans to join Alcoa as corporate affairs VP on January 18.

NEW YORK: The SVP of communications at American International Group (AIG), Nicholas Ashooh, plans to join Alcoa as corporate affairs VP on January 18. In the new role, Ashooh will be a member of the aluminum producer's executive council and oversee global communications, government affairs, community relations, and the Alcoa Foundation.

Ashooh, whose last day with AIG will be January 15, will report directly to Alcoa CEO, Klaus Kleinfeld. He is being replaced at AIG by the investment firm's current VP of corporate media relations, Christina Pretto. She will take over the position immediately upon Ashooh's departure.

“This is an attractive match for me, because of my energy background,” said Ashooh, whose past communications experience includes multiple stints in the power industry, including at American Electric Power, Niagara Mohawk Power Corp., and the Public Service of New Hampshire. “Alcoa has a sharp focus on sustainability, and is very progressive in the green movement.”

Ashooh announced the news internally by speaking with AIG executives and his direct staff prior to the January 4, announcement.

“I initially called key leaders at AIG to inform them of the news, and then I pulled together a meeting of my staff to inform them personally prior to the news being announced to the media,” he said.

Ashooh, who led PR during AIG's financial crisis and subsequent government bailout, is replacing John Bergen at Alcoa, who will now serve as the company's VP of human resources.

Looking toward challenges in the new role, Ashooh noted there will be differences in working for an aluminum producer, as opposed to an insurance corporation, but said he believes he is up to the challenge.

“I obviously need to learn more about the aluminum business, but I'm conversant in energy issues, and that will be a big help,” he said. “I've changed jobs a few times, and what I've learned is you hit the ground running, learning the new faces and what your new colleagues do, and of course, learning about the company itself.”

Separately, AIG's vice chair of corporate communications, legal, human resources, and corporate affairs, Anastasia Kelly, resigned just before the new year, due to salary restrictions imposed by the Obama administration's compensation overseer, Kenneth Feinberg. Ashooh told PRWeek his leaving AIG was not related to the salary cap, as his compensation was not subject to the jurisdiction of Feinberg.

Listen to a previous PRWeek podcast with Ashooh regarding crisis communications strategies.

Updated January 4, 2010, 5:32pm

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