Sandy Weill

SO FORGET THAT, SHAREHOLDERS, EMPLOYEES, CITIGROUPIES AT LARGE, because we know you’ve all been dying for it to happen. Well, it’s not so MOVE ON. (Incidentally, we’re not suggesting that Sanford and Alan Greenspan get together and form a support group for people who think the organizations they used to work at are sitting around waiting for their heroes to walk back through the door (standing up only to light candles at respective shrines each week for regularly scheduled Friday night vigils) and take over what couldn’t possibly function without them, but if they wanted to, there wouldn’t be any objections from us.)
Citigroup In ‘CEO Limbo’ As Stock Skids Further [CNBC]

citigrouptoobigtogrowortoobigtomanage.jpgBut a hedge fund manager with a virulent tongue does, and there’s some bad air between the two of them. Recently Weill, Citigroup CEO Emeritus, was quoted in the press as defending the giant bank he built. “Being large and having a strong balance sheet enables a company to withstand the financial turmoil that happens every now and then in global markets,” Weill said.
In response a former banker turned hedgie manager (of Second Curve Capital) described the company as a “supersized jackalope.” And he didn’t stop there:

Why Weill thinks that investors would take comfort in that statement, I can’t begin to understand…Citi has gotten so big, and lumbering, and broadly diversified that it simply can’t generate meaningful organic growth anymore. The law of large numbers won’t allow it.
If all I wanted from my investment was an instrument that would “withstand financial turmoil” I’d simply buy Treasury bills and be done with it. Presumably Citigroup’s shareholders want something more than that.

Coming to Weill’s defense was the one other person on earth who doesn’t think Citigroup should be broken up, Saudi Prince Alwaleed bin Talal: “I am adamantly against breaking up Citigroup…I see this as a bad idea that should not even be considered.”
Portfolio’s Felix Salmon has helpfully offered to arbitrate the fight. According to Salmon the problem with Citigroup is not that it’s too big to grow. It’s that it may be too big to manage. “If a strong leader could communicate a simple and effective vision for the company, the calls for its breakup would soon cease,” Salmon writes. “But such people are hard to find.”
This question doesn’t really merit us making a Vizu poll, since the results will most likely be “No” (BSD) and “Yes” (everyone else), but tell us what you think, re: Should Citigroup break up?
Weill Says Big Is Beautiful; Hedge Fund Disagrees [DealBook]
Why Citigroup Should Be Broken Up – Now [Seeking Alpha]
Is Citigroup Too Big? [Portfolio]

  • 01 Mar 2007 at 4:15 PM
  • Citi

What’s Eating Chuck Prince?

The Four Seasons.JPG
Gossip rag Dealbook reported this morning that former and current Citigroup chief execs Sandy Weill and Chuck Prince were seen dining at the Four Seasons yesterday during lunch. From the lede, our interest was piqued. Such a seemingly salacious meal begs for answers, does it not? Unfortunately, the Dealbookies were apparently too classy to take a real stab at what the convo entailed, other than asking the crowd,

Was Mr. Weill’s highly public lunch with Mr. Prince an attempt to show support for him in a difficult time? Did Mr. Prince — who has thus far refused to consider dismantling Mr. Weill’s creation — seek out Mr. Weill’s advice?
Or were they just both just hungry?

But, damn it, that wasn’t good enough for us. So we decided to ask a hodgepodge of people in the know what, beyond a couple of $34 bison burgers, actually passed through the duo’s lips. Their answers may surprise you.
Dana Vachon, former J.P. Morgan analyst, Mergers and Acquisitions auteur.

Weill: Sometimes I just feel so old and ugly, Chuck.
Prince: No. No. Stop. You’re a beautiful, beautiful man…
Weill (dolefully): Uh-uh. I’m so fat. I’m so damn fat…
Prince (reaching across bison carpaccio to hold Weill’s arm): That’s not true. That’s a silly, stupid lie!
Weill (bashfully): Do you really mean it?
Prince: No one looks better in double-breasted with wide-lapels, Sandy…
Weill (hopefully): Oh you!
Prince: No. No, Sandy. You.
Weill: Oh gosh, I feel so awkward…
Prince: You never have to feel that way around me.
Weill: But also…I feel better.
Prince:: How about a frozen hot chocolate at Serendipity?
Prince: You know me so well!
And Scene.

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One Regulator To Rule Them All

eyeofweill.jpgWhenever we mention that there are special interests backing the push for new hedge fund regulation, we always get questions from readers wanting to know just who exactly these “special interests” are. And that’s probably putting it too gently. In fact, many of our correspondents seem to think we are ourselves the mouthpieces for hedge fund managers who prefer to operate under the cover of darkness to accomplish their nefarious alpha-seeking strategies. After all, aren’t the only people pushing for regulation politicians, regulators and other servants of the public good?
Stifle your laugh for a moment at this characterization of bureaucrats and office-holders for a moment. It’s wildly far-fetched but can make a useful counter-factual assumption for trying to think about a very useful question: who else is pushing for hedge fund regulation? And to get to the answer to this question we need to ask one of the oldest and most pointed questions there is: cui bono? Who benefits?
Who stands to benefit from increased regulation of the hedge fund industry? Again, let’s put aside the politicians and the bureaucrats. Who in private business benefits? In the first place, by increasing the rent of occupying that swath of territory called “hedge fund land” additional regulation would benefit those hedge funds with the most ability to absorb increased overhead. And the increased regulatory cost would serve as a barrier to entry. So we start with two quick categories of potential beneficiaries: established hedge funds and larger hedge funds that already bear large legal costs.
But, of course, it’s not just certain hedge funds that benefit. There’s also those firm’s that compete with independent hedge funds for the investment capital of the wealthy. Investment banks, for instance, particularly those with their own brokerage and private banking practices, are certainly in competition for the investment capital that now finds its way into hedge funds. (This is one reason so many of them are starting or acquiring hedge funds for themselves.)
But even this is too narrow a view. Investment banks compete not just for dollars but for human capital, and for years some of the best and brightest talent on Wall Street has been drawn to Greenwich. Anything that can increase the cost of hedge funds doing business, and therefore potentially cut into their profit margins and compensation offered, will help Wall Street’s financial institutions compete with these smaller, less regulated entities.
So you want names? Not just broad categories? Well, let’s start with Sandy Weill, the man who built Citigroup. In a long interview with Spiegel, Weill reveals that he thinks that hedge funds need to open up their books to regulators. What’ more, Weill wants to see one regulatory agency charged with taking in the entire financial industry–securities, banking, hedge funds–on the grounds that only a unified agency could contemplate the entire global financial market.
Now there’s lots wrong with Weill’s argument and it would be fun taking it apart. But that’s not the point of this item. The point was to show how asking a simple question can often get you some interesting answers.
“Hedge Funds Have to Open their Books to Regulators” [Spiegel]

weill.gifPage Six brings us back to the days of the last century, with a reminder that the spat between the former head of Citigroup, Sandy Weill, and business reporter Charlie Gasparino still keeps on keeping on.

CNBC’s Charlie Gasparino, formerly with the Wall Street Journal, is talking to a lawyer about possibly suing Weill for defamation because the book casts doubts on the accuracy of Gasparino’s reporting.
Gasparino broke some of the juicier stories of Wall Street misconduct, including the bribery scandal that ended Weill’s Wall Street career last April.
“Mr. Weill can have any opinion of me that he wants,” Gasparino told The Post’s Suzanne Kapner last month. “But when he ascribes certain actions of mine as fact, and he is wrong, then I have a problem with it.”
Gasparino’s lawyer, Mark Schwartz, said, “The argument could be made that maybe Sandy Weill fixates on Charles Gasparino as the source of his problems, and maybe there is some malice there.”

Need a refresher? Oh, come on. You remember. This was back before the business scandals were all backdating this and backdating that. Back then it was all about a nursery school, a phone company and a phony research call. After the jump, we party like it’s 1999.
‘Real’ Mad at Wall St. Mogul [New York Post]

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