There's only one man to lead Citibank
If you are a senior executive these days, and you get wind of an unscheduled weekend board meeting, you can be sure it won’t be good news. Citigroup (C:NYSE) CEO Chuck Prince followed in the footsteps of Merril’s Stan O’Neal (“Merrill shareholders must be spitting fire“, October 28-07) this weekend, except that he had the aplomb to have it leaked to the media on Friday that “it was best for Citi that he resign”, so that America’s largest bank could move on from its subprime troubles. O’Neal went through 72 tortuous hours of negotiating his departure in public. Mr. Prince is a wise man.
Although former Clinton Cabinet Secretary Robert Rubin has stepped up to the plate temporarily, the board committee charged with finding a replacement for Mr. Prince is challenged, according to the WSJ. It seems that many possible successors to Mr. Prince were either pushed out or bailed from Citi over the past three or four years.
If I may be so bold, let me commend the name Matt Barrett, O.C. to Citibank’s search committee (although I haven’t checked to see if he’s interested). Recently retired from Barclay’s, he is credited from turning that place around in under half a decade (“Matt Barrett the real winner in ABN Amro deal“, April 23-07).
As CEO at BMO and Barclays, Mr. Barrett focused on the bread and butter of banking, and never let the corporate lenders get the place into much trouble. Conservative, yes. But a successful strategy. Oh, doesn’t Mr. Rubin yearn for a conservative person at the helm. Mr. Barrett has done business in Asia, North America and Europe, a resume that suits the far-flung empire that Citi has become.
Mr. Barrett can handle the analysts and politicians, and wouldn’t be looking for a 15 year commitment, either. If the internal candidates aren’t yet ready to take over, who better to buy them some time than a mobile international banker? New York is somewhat central to Mr. Barrett’s three “homes” in London, Toronto and Palm Beach – and Citibank probably has a great corporate rate at the St. Regis Hotel.
Citigroup investors deserve a period of calm, and Mr. Barrett can certainly help their risk management team work through the SIV challenges. He earned his major workout stripes – along with BMO’s Mike Mailia and Jeff Chisholm – with the Latin America debt crisis, after all.
If Citi goes this route, all I’d ask Mr. Rubin to do is to please send us a bunch of floor seat tickets and a flight to see the Knicks / Raptors game at Madison Square Garden on Friday, January 11th. Why pay a headhunter $1 million when the answer is available in the blogosphere??