Supermodel Bundchen Joins Hedge Funds Dumping Dollars (Bloomberg): We’re going to lead off today with what is obviously the most important macro-economic story of the day: hot girls aren’t taking greenbacks anymore. That’s right, after years of dollar dominance of the babe market, the best looking head-turners in the world are turning against the dollar. It starts with supermodel Gisele Bundchen but is only likely to spread from there. When the Arabs figure out that hot European and blondish South American chicks no longer like the dollar spread, we’re done for. Like many foreign and US investors, Bundchen has apparently concluded that a spendthrift US government, funded by easy money and it’s attendant credit boom, is clearly leading to a depreciation in the babe-buying power of the dollar.
In Citi Shake-Up, Broader Troubles (WSJ): The Wall Street Journal’s reporters take the first stab on writing the post-mortem on Charles Prince, the Citigroup chief executive who resigned yesterday. His defenestration seems overdetermined: recent credit market losses, failure to execute one-bank model, lack of coherent corporate culture, the departure of many top executives in recent years and loss of support from Sandy Weill. Our favorite buried yet telling detail: bond traders sometimes answer the phone by saying “Salomon.”
Perform-or-Die Culture Leaves Thin Talent Pool For Top Wall Street Jobs (WSJ): As at Merrill, the inability to immediately find a successor for Citi’s top-executive reveals the thinness of leadership at the bank. There are no clear-cut successors, in part because so many top executives have left in recent years. The article pins that blame on “the Wall Street culture in which executives are pushed to maximize profits and quickly get axed if they fail to deliver.” But we’d add another reason: for the last twenty-years, the big Wall Street firms have been losing top people to private equity firm, hedge funds and boutiques. Between pressure from so-called shareholder advocates and additional regulations on public companies, it’s become harder and harder for Wall Street’s biggest firms to stay competitive for executive talent. To bizzaro-paraphrase Willie Sutton: the talent isn’t at the firms because that’s not where the money is.
Sir Win Bischoff - who he? (FT Alphaville): The main qualification of Citi’s new chief executive seems to be that he’s sixty-six years old, so no-one is afraid he’ll try to use his temporary seat of power to claim control of the bank. FT Alphaville describes him as “ a City grandee in just about every sense of the term.” He’s basically a post-national European, as far as we can tell. Born in Germany, raised in South Africa, briefly worked at Chase and spent most of his life as an executive at Schroders before graduating to the upper-echelons of cozy board seats at McGraw Hill, Land Securities, Eli Lilly and Prudential. He first became involved in Citi when Salomon Smith Barney bought the corporate advisory business of Schroders, eventually leading to Bischoff becoming chairman of Citigroup Europe. That year, 2000, he was knighted, which is British for saying that he is politically well-connected.
(Joe is on assignment but there's still more of Opening Bell after the jump.)
Citi Watch: The Goodbye Memos (DealBook): Andrew Ross Sorkin is among the best connected of any financial writer working today. One reason for that is that he reminds many old Wall Street guys of themselves as young men (or at least, he reminds them of how they like to think of themselves as young men): frighteningly intelligent, ruthlessly ambitious, universally envied and annoyingly successful. Another reason is that he’s been in the business longer than many reporters twice his age. He’s only thirty years old but he’s been at New York Times since he was, like, eight. You walk into a party and that tall guy with the bright eyes nodding enthusiastically to the old, short dude while you are still trying to find the open bar? That’s Sorkin. He’s like the son who is the son they wish they had instead of the ones they do. Anyway, this morning his DealBook has both the exit memo of Charles Prince and the “Hello!” memos of Robert Rubin and Win Bishoff. And we sort of suspect that both Chuck and Rubin sent them to Sorkin directly.
As Citigroup Chief Totters, CNBC Reporter Is Having a Great Year (NYT): You know who is apparently having the best year ever? Maria Bartiromo. “I really feel like I have had the year of my career, the best year of my career,” the Money Honey tells the Times. Somehow this is all related to executives getting fired at Citigroup but we’ve totally forgotten about that story already. Next scandal please!
Hong Kong Shares Plummet (WSJ): Does anyone want to be our Asian stringer? That’s “stringer”: as in locally based reporter filling in our readers on what’s up in Asia. That’s “stringer” not “stripper.” We’ve already got the latter position filled. Hong Kong shares plummeted today because the Chinese government is delay plans to let the mainland Chinese invest in Hong Kong stocks. This is the kind of thing we’d like to know more about. Who makes these decisions, for instance. We have no idea and none of the news stories we’ve read on this clue us in. We’d like to better cover Asia in general, so if you’re interested let us know. You’ll get paid and, if necessary, you can write under an assumed name. The caveat: Bess Levin is in charge of inventing all assumed names at DealBreaker, so you’ll have to negotiate with her on this.
Was the private equity boom worth it for Wall St? (Reuters): John Keehner does the unenviable job of running the number on money made from private equity deals on Wall Street versus losses from loan commitments that could be syndicated and hung bridge loans that are now under the water. (Is it still too early for falling bridge jokes?) Much of the money that was made by the banks during the boom has been wiped out by the write-downs. So was it all irrational exuberance? Of course not. Partially ignored in Keehner's analysis is that much of this can be explained by the completely rational self-interest of the investment bankers who put these deals together. They were amply rewarded for making these deals during the boom, and even after the write-downs no-one can take away their bonuses. In short, the write-downs are, at least in part, what economists call an agency cost.
Phew. We're done with basically live-blogging our morning reading. This "Opening Bell" gig is tougher than it looks. Remind us to buy more drinks for Joe when he gets back.