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CEO Vikram Pandit can expect his life to get even more difficult now that Ken Lewis is leaving

Bank of America

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at the end of the year.

"I would say that's a commonsensical observation," said John Gutfreund, the former CEO of Salomon Brothers, the legendary investment bank that became part of Citigroup in 1999.

Asked by

whether he thought Pandit should go, Gutfreund said, "I have no opinion on that. I can't have an opinion about everything. I don't know everything about everything."

Asked whether he thought Pandit had done a good job running the bank, Gutfreund thought for a moment and said, "No comment."

Pandit, a former finance professor who's known for being brainy but uncharismatic, took the top job at Citigroup in December 2007 following a more than 20-year career at

Morgan Stanley

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. He also had a brief but undistinguished stint running a hedge fund that Citi acquired in April of that year, principally because former Treasury Secretary and

Goldman Sachs

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star Robert Rubin, who sat on Citi's board until January of this year, had an eye on Pandit as a potential CEO, according to a profile of Pandit in

New York Magazine

in March of this year.

At Citi, Pandit pored over Citi's books and uncovered what would eventually turn out to be billions in subprime losses, leading to the ouster of Chuck Prince as CEO, as the profile tells it. Rubin eventually persuaded Citi's board to give Pandit the top job.

In many ways, it's been a rough ride for Pandit since he took the reins. Internally, he has clashed with many members of Citi's old guard, including former CEO Sandy Weill. There have also been a number of public missteps.

Pandit got major egg on his face in September when

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snatched Wachovia away for $7 a share after many people believed Citi had secured a deal for $1 per share. He also ran afoul of FDIC Chairman Sheila Bair and has suffered several other humiliations, including being called a jerk by

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boss Jamie Dimon on a conference call of Wall Street CEOs last year, according to

The Wall Street Journal


A spokesperson for Citi declined to comment for this article.

While Pandit did not create the problems at Citi, he has been its public face as the government has poured upwards of $45 billion into it, and, rightly or wrongly, is widely associated with its woes.

Chairman Jim Cramer, who says he has excellent sources at Citigroup, said he believes Pandit has the backing of the board and will survive in a comment on an earlier


I wrote. In the same comment, Cramer predicted Lewis' departure from BofA, so maybe he will be right again.

But it's worth noting that Pandit is now the only surviving CEO from among the handful of companies to receive extraordinary help from the government in the wake of Lehman Brothers' bankruptcy last year. It's only logical to think that, if the company continues to struggle, the members of Citi's board will be asking themselves if he truly deserves that distinction.

--Written by Dan Freed in New York