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Is Rubin Up For Citigroup’s Top Slot?

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Eddie Lampert may be betting that former US Treasury Secretary Robert Rubin is poised to take over as chief of Citigroup, according to a former colleague of both Lampert and Rubin. Earlier this week, Lampert’s ESL Investments disclosed that it had accumulated a 0.3% stake in Citi, setting off speculation about Lampert’s intentions. Speculation ranged from notion that Lampert might view Citigroup as cheap relative to it’s banking peers—this came from an unnamed banker who happens to work at Citigroup—to the idea that he might be poised to take an “activist investor” stance and agitate for change. Shares of Citigroup role 4% following the disclosure of ESL’s position.
“Lampert is tight with Rubin. He loves the man. Idolizes him. He may think that Rubin’s about to become a lot more involved at Citigroup, maybe even to take over for Prince,” the source said, referring to Citigroup chief executive Chuck Prince.
Rubin rose to Wall Street at Goldman Sachs before being appointed to the Treasury position by Bill Clinton. He is now the chairman of Citigroup’s executive committee. Early in his career Lampert worked under Rubin when he was an arbitrage trader at Goldman Sachs. This morning’s Wall Street Journal described Rubin as one of Lampert’s “leading role models.”
Yesterday CNBC’s Charlie Gasparino said that there was pressure for Rubin to take a more active role in the management of Citigroup. His position at the head of the executive committee brings him a hefty paycheck—reportedly $17 million—but some have said he doesn’t exercise much responsibility for the management of the bank. At least one banker employed at an investment bank described Rubin as “a relationship guy” whose job mainly involved using the connections he has made during his long career in finance and government to win business for the bank.
Prince’s tenure at the top of Citigroup has not been a happy one. The bank has been under-pressure from investors to change its management and some have even suggested that it spin off some of its constituent businesses. Prince is widely seen as unwilling to fundamentally change the structure of Citigroup.
Will Chorus Grow at Citi? [Wall Street Journal]