Cornelius Vander Starr

Cornelius Vander Starr
Born October 15, 1892
Chicago, Illinois
Died December 20, 1968
Nationality American
Other names Neil Starr, C. V. Starr
Occupation Businessman
Known for Founder of American International Group

Cornelius Vander Starr also known as Neil Starr or C. V. Starr (October 15, 1892 – December 20, 1968) was an American businessman and operative of the Office of Strategic Services who was best known for founding the American International Group (AIG), a major corporation in the 21st century.

Early life

Starr was born to parents of English and Dutch ancestry. His father was a railroad engineer.[1] He began his first business venture, selling ice cream, at the age of nineteen.

He joined the U.S. Army in 1918 but was never deployed overseas because World War I had ended. Unable to resist a strong urge to travel and understand the world, he joined the Pacific Mail Steamship Company as a clerk in Yokohama, Japan. Later that year, he traveled to Shanghai where he worked for several insurance businesses.


In 1919 he founded what was then known as American Asiatic Underwriters (later American International Underwriters) in Shanghai, China. He had long been aware of the described and looming "Chinese Century." It has been reported that he worked for the Office of Strategic Services during World War II while in China.[2] After the war, he hired O.S.S. captain Duncan Lee, a lawyer, who was the long-term general counsel of AIG. AIG left China in early 1949, as Mao Zedong led the advance of the Communist People's Liberation Army on Shanghai,[3][4] and Starr moved the company headquarters to its current home in New York City.[5] AIG was once the world's largest insurance company.


In 1955 he founded the C. V. Starr Foundation, to which he left his entire residuary estate, after a small amount in the eight figures along with his house in Brewster was awarded to his niece upon his death in 1968. He set up several other trusts for his close relatives. The sum of money left to his niece and relatives (not including the majority of his wealth left to charity) would have been worth several billion USD in the 21st century. As of 2013 the C. V. Starr Foundation still gives between 100 and 200 million dollars USD annually to charities and causes around the world respectively. The C. V. Starr East Asian Library at Columbia University was named for Starr in recognition of an endowment gift by the Starr Foundation in 1981. The C. V. Starr East Asian Library at the University of Illinois. There is also the C. V. Starr East Asian Library at the University of California, Berkeley, which houses 900,000 volumes in Chinese, Japanese, Korean, and other East Asian languages, making it one of the top two such collections in the United States outside of the Library of Congress.[6] Students at Hofstra University will know C.V. Starr Hall as home to the Frank G. Zarb School of Business, a state-of-the-art technologically advanced building, which opened for classes in the fall of 2000 and houses the Martin B. Greenberg Trading Room complete with a stock ticker that is delayed only 15 minutes from Wall Street.[7] The C. V. Starr Center for the American Experience in Chestertown, MD, works in conjunction with Washington College to promote the American Pictures Series at the National Portrait Gallery in Washington D.C.[8]


  1. "Cornelius Vander Starr 1892-1968" (pdf). Retrieved April 9, 2014.
  2. David Stafford (2000). Roosevelt and Churchill: men of secrets. Overlook Press. p. 260. ISBN 978-1-58567-068-0.
  3. Thompson, Clifford; Block, Maxine; Moritz, Charles; Rothe, Anna Herthe; Candee, Marjorie Dent (1941). Current Biography Yearbook. Current Biography (60th ed.). H. W. Wilson Company. p. 247. Retrieved 2009-03-17. AIG abandoned China completely in 1949, as the Communist People's Liberation Army, led by Mao Zedong, advanced on Shanghai.
  4. "Foreign Office Files for China, 1949-1976". Part 1: Complete Files for 1949: Publisher's Note. Adam Matthew Publications. Archived from the original on 2008-10-13. Retrieved 2009-03-17. By the spring of 1949 [the Communists] had captured Peking, the former Nationalist capital city of Nanking and the important trading city of Shanghai.
  5. "AIG: What does this US giant do?". BBC News. 17 September 2008. Retrieved 2009-03-17. In 1949 [Cornelius Vander Starr] moved the company's headquarters to New York where it remains today although it's subsidiaries operate off-shore.
  6. "About EAL". Retrieved 2012-10-08.
  7. "Buildings and Facilities - Frank G. Zarb School of Business - Hofstra University". Retrieved 2012-10-08.
  8. "The C.V. Starr Center for the Study of the American Experience". 2012-09-27. Retrieved 2012-10-08.

External links

Business positions
New title President of American International Underwriters
1919 – 1968
Succeeded by
Maurice R. Greenberg
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