One once-highflying executive isn't shy about throwing his name into the ring for the
Todd Thomson, who was heir apparent to Charles Prince before Prince ousted him following a bizarre January media scandal, seems to be rather loudly campaigning to clear his name. He's trying to become the dark-horse candidate in the race to replace Prince, who stepped down earlier this week after Citi announced a second round of bruising subprime-related writedowns.
Both the intensity and the timing suggest that Thomson is attempting in earnest to present himself to Citi's CEO search committee as it trawls for a replacement for Prince. But so far, the effort seems to be for naught.
that he has not been contacted by anyone at Citi's search committee. He declined to speculate on whether he might be viewed as a legitimate candidate, amid reports that the board is focusing on execs including
CEO Larry Fink and John Thain, chief of
A Citi spokeswoman in New York did not immediately return a call for comment.
During the Reuters Finance Summit in New York on Tuesday, Thomson said his own view is that "my background is pretty good for that, given what I've done and what I've accomplished."
that his performance at Citi has been unimpeachable. He pointed to how well his private wealth management unit did prior to his exodus at the bank.
Under his charge, 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. It invests in private equity, hedge funds, credit structures and real estate.
Thomson had rapidly ascended Citi's power structure before his departure. He joined Travelers Group as head of global development in 1998, while Sandy Weill was in the process of working out a merger with Citicorp. Two years later Thomson 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. Krawcheck was replaced as CFO by Gary Crittenden and named head of global wealth management.
Thomson's tenure at Citi, however, may be forever tainted by allegations that he had an inappropriate relationship with
reporter Maria Bartiromo.
An article in
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 terrible performance. Bartiromo writes a column for the
Such power plays among CEOs and aspirants have become the norm on Wall Street. Witness the upheaval at
, which saw Stan O'Neal ousted for mortgage securities losses.
The uncertainty on Wall Street this fall -- given the losses at big firms and the according search for scapegoats -- could make dark-horse candidates such as Thomson more attractive to hard-pressed directors. Citi's Crittenden and head of Citi's securities unit Vikram Pandit are viewed as top internal candidates for CEO.
Thomson's reputation among some former and existing Citi staff is a bit mixed, according to sources. He has garnered the oft-whimsical admiration of ex-Citi biggie Weill, who is said to have been a supporter of Thomson during the Bartiromo media tempest. Weill had also been a huge supporter of Prince, until missteps over the past year or more caused him to become disenchanted.
Calls to Weill's offices in New York were not returned.
Others, however, have claimed that Thomson never put his nose to the grindstone during his Citi tenure -- unlike other executives, such as chief operating officer Bob Druskin.
At the end, it's hard to say if Thomson's name will be called. If so, the question is whether Weill's imprimatur -- and the fact that he essentially put the existing board in place -- would be enough to get Thomson considered.
The CEO search committee includes
soon-to-be-departing-CEO Richard Parsons, Ford Foundation President Frank Thomas,
CEO Alain Belda and Citi Chairman Robert Rubin.
The search committee has a tough task ahead. CIBC analyst Meredith Whitney has said that the bank has a $30 billion capital shortfall and must consider shedding assets or cutting its dividend. During the call, Citi said it wouldn't cut its dividend -- but didn't see a return to normalcy at the bank until the middle of 2008.
Any Citi CEO will have to restore confidence in the behemoth that Weill created, stave off the clamoring for Citi's dissolution and return the franchise to profitability. Such could be a tiring and sometimes thankless task for Thomson, who lives in Rowayton, Conn., with his wife and three children. But there's an upside, too.
"This institution has a very large number of extremely capable people and as you know that takes a very special kind of leadership," Rubin noted.