Thursday, December 6, 2007

The man who could be Citi's king

A high-profile speech to insiders could be a clue to the Citigroup CEO succession puzzle. Meet Vikram Pandit.

By Patricia Sellers, editor at large

NEW YORK (Fortune) -- Did Citi's past meet Citi's future today?

When 80 or so alumni of Citicorp - the global bank that merged into behemoth Citigroup (Charts, Fortune 500) - met in midtown Manhattan for their annual alumni lunch this afternoon, an intriguing speaker subbed for Chuck Prince, the company's recently ousted CEO: Vikram Pandit, the man who could be king.

No one knows whether he will be since the CEO search is in process - and hitting walls, we hear. But the appearance by Pandit, who oversees Citi's institutional businesses, adds to speculation that he is in the lead to nab the top job.

To this formidable audience of former Citi honchos - including Rick Braddock, Larry Small, Victor Menezes and Nancy Newcomb - Pandit said the right things. He told the alums that Citigroup has a great franchise but needs to do a lot better in terms of productivity, risk management and culture. Right on.

Taking questions, he was not specific enough for a few folks, who grumbled that Prince, last year's speaker, was better with numbers and details. But then again, what did details-oriented Prince, a lawyer by training, get Citi? Declining profits and multi-billion writeoffs, that's what.

The alums agreed on one thing: Whoever takes charge at Citigroup - whether it turns out to be Pandit or a CEO recruit from the outside - that executive needs to return the leadership to real business people who know, first and foremost, how to run a bank and rebuild a global giant.

Source: news

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