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Ex-Citi Hot Shot Thomson Mulls a Private-Equity Comeback

Todd Thomson, once heir apparent to former Citi (C) CEO Sandy Weill, is plotting a Wall Street comeback. caught up with Thomson, who is on safari with his family in South Africa. The onetime head of wealth management at the financial services giant says that he has been weighing his options since being ousted from Citi in a high-profile flap back in January.

Thomson tells he has spent the past few months mulling what form a re-emergence in the business world might take. "I want to make sure that what I do next I'm completely comfortable with," he says.

Merger and acquisition activity has been in hyperdrive, and hedge funds and private equity have been raising cash at an amazing clip. So it comes as no surprise that one option Thomson is considering is starting his own private equity outfit.

Getting funds shouldn't pose a problem, given Thomson's business contacts and high-net-worth relationships. With Thomson at the helm, revenue at Citi's wealth management business rose 17% from a year ago in 2006 to $10.2 billion, while profit reached $1.44 billion. While Citi's CFO, Thomson also established and oversaw Citigroup Alternative Investments, with approximately $15 billion in capital invested in private equity, hedge funds, credit structures and real estate.

"I have what I think is a clean and good track record," Thomson says.

In April, Thomson formed an investment vehicle called Headwaters Capital. He says the shop is capable of tackling deals as large as a $1 billion in various industries, but he wouldn't specify where he's looking. The onetime Citi CFO says Headwaters could function as the vehicle for his new endeavor, but he stresses he might also scrap it and create a new one.

Thomson says he also has fielded calls from companies asking him to serve as chief executive, though he declined to name names or identify the possible industries in which he is being courted.

Citi's Chuck Prince, who has been under fire due to the slack performance of Citi shares, replaced Thomson, 46, as head of its brokerage and private-banking unit earlier this year. The move came amid a media tempest over his relationship with CNBC anchor Maria Bartiromo and rumors that he spent the company dime loosely.

Not everyone took those reports as gospel. A piece in Businessweek in February weighed the notion that Thomson may have been a scapegoat for Prince, who sought to consolidate his CEO position at the top and deflect attention from Citi's performance. Bartiromo writes a column for the McGraw-Hill (MHP) publication.

Whatever the truth, the Thomson saga became the closest thing to a soap opera Wall Street's seen in a while.

Thomson, who negotiated an undisclosed severance package from Citi, declined to comment on his former employer, citing the terms of that deal. But he says he's happy that he has the luxury to be patient about his next move, which he expects will take shape around October or November.

Thomson had a relatively rapid ascent to the top of the financial markets before departing Citi. He joined Travelers Group as head of global development in 1998, while Weill was in the process of working out a merger with Citicorp. Two years later he was tapped as Citi's CFO -- a position he held until 2004, when he swapped roles with Sallie Krawcheck. She took over the finance position and Thomson was named head of the Smith Barney brokerage unit.

For now, Thomson does his thinking while he shares office space with private equity firm Ripplewood Holdings in New York.

Want more? Check out TV video. Marc DeCambre on whether Thomson's decision makes sense.

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