In a senior management shuffle Tuesday, Citigroup Inc. raised the profile of several younger managers and added fuel to speculation about who will ultimately be named successor to Sanford I. Weill.
The company named two chief operating officers: Jay Fishman, who will oversee finance and risk management, and Charles Prince, who will head up administration and operations. Both men are longtime lieutenants of Mr. Weill and already hold prominent roles within the company.
In addition, Citigroup said Robert I. Lipp would step down as head of global consumer operations and be succeeded by Robert Willumstad. Mr. Weill said in a memorandum Tuesday that Mr. Lipp, 62, wanted to spend more time on philanthropic pursuits. He will return to Travelers Property and Casualty as chairman and continue to be a member of the company's board.
"We are enhancing the operational strength of our company through these new positions," Mr. Weill said in the memo to senior managers. The new chief operating officers "will help assure the smooth and efficient management of day-to-day operations and will help coordinate activities across businesses."
Mr. Willumstad takes on a high-profile business in a state of flux. Citi is buying Irving, Tex.-based Associates First Capital Corp., a consumer finance company that should give Citi a big boost in that category in the United States and in Japan. The company is also trying to figure out how to pump up cross-sales of products through its U.S. branch network and bring insurance, consumer finance, and investment products to foreign markets.
Management changes at Citi have been an almost semi-annual occurrence - even before the 1998 merger of Citicorp and Travelers Group - and they tend to invite plenty of speculation. While Mr. Weill, 67, shows no desire to step down at any time in the foreseeable future, analysts said, the changes Tuesday give younger managers broad authority.
"They are naming the next generation of leaders and adding more administrative infrastructure," said Joan S. Solotar, an analyst at Credit Suisse First Boston.
Mr. Fishman, 47, is now charged with coordinating all financial reporting in the company and will continue to head Travelers Property and Casualty and consumer businesses in Western Europe and Japan. Mr. Prince, 50, is responsible for operations and staff functions and will continue to be the company's chief legal counsel. Mr. Willumstad, 55, becomes chief executive of consumer operations, overseeing North American credit cards, mortgages, CitiFinancial, consumer Internet projects, and global credit card product development. He was already in charge of Citi's consumer finance operations.
All three report directly to Mr. Weill.
Analysts focused on the additional responsibilities given Mr. Fishman and Mr. Willumstad. The two are already on the short list of possible succession candidates, along with Michael Carpenter, Victor Menezes, and Tom Jones. Mr. Carpenter, 53, runs Salomon Smith Barney and global corporate relationship banking. Mr. Menezes, 51, runs consumer and corporate activities in emerging markets, and Mr. Jones, 51, runs asset management. Another possible contender is vice chairman Deryck Maughan, 53.
But, some analysts said, Mr. Fishman's role as head of risk and finance mirrored the career path of a former succession candidate - James Dimon, who left the company as president in 1998 and is now chairman and chief executive officer of Bank One Corp. in Chicago.
The changes come at the end of a year marked with high-ranking departures. For example, Joseph Plumeri quit as head of North American branch banking in January, Heidi Miller quit as chief financial officer in February, and John S. Reed resigned as co-chief executive officer in March.
Mr. Lipp, another longtime associate of Mr. Weill, is moving toward retirement. He leaves the office of the chairman, which now consists of Mr. Weill and Robert E. Rubin, the former Treasury Secretary who is a Citi board member and top management adviser.
"The market has begun to wonder about the management ranks at Citi," said Henry McVey, an analyst at Morgan Stanley Dean Witter & Co. "The new structure gives the company a much younger profile, which may be a benefit longer-term."
Todd Thomson, 39, another potential succession candidate who was named chief financial officer in March, will assume responsibility for the firm's direct investments, the company said Tuesday. As CFO, Mr. Thomson reports to Mr. Fishman. As head of direct investments, he reports to the office of the chairman. And, in a third role as head of cross-marketing efforts, he reports to Mr. Weill.
Marge Magner will continue to oversee Citi's North American branch operations, Primerica, and CitiFinancial branches. Keith Hughes, the head of Associates, will head up consumer finance operations in emerging markets.
From Our Archive: