Thomas C. Theobald has a unique perch from which to watch the banking bailout: He is the only person alive who has actually run a U.S. government-controlled banking institution.

In 1987, Theobald, a vice chairman of what was then Citicorp, was named the chairman and CEO of Chicago's Continental Illinois National Bank and its parent, Continental Illinois Corp., which the federal government had taken over three years earlier in a $4.5 billion rescue after it made billions in bad loans to oil and gas wildcatters and other marginal borrowers.

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