Citigroup's Thinning Ranks

COO Jay Fishman is the latest executive departure, raising questions about Sandy Weill's apparent inability to form a succession plan

The exodus from Citigroup continues. On Oct. 11, insurer St. Paul announced that Jay Fishman, Citigroup's chief operating officer and chairman of Citigroup subsidiary Travelers, had joined the company as chairman, effective immediately. Fishman replaces Douglas Leatherdale, 64, who has said he wants to retire at 65.

The move marks the fourth long-time associate of demanding Citigroup Chief Executive Sanford I. Weill to leave the company since it was created in 1998, and it heightens concerns that Weill, 68, has no plan in place for a successor at the world's largest bank.

Last year, Robert Lipp, head of the conglomerate's consumer business, left to pursue "philanthropic interests." Joseph Plumeri, who worked with Weill for more than two decades, also left in 2000, to head Willis Group, a London-based insurer. In 1999, investment banking head Jamie Dimon, long considered Weill's heir apparent, was forced out of the company after an internal power struggle. He now heads Bank One.


  All of the departures came after Weill cleaned house following the company's merger with his Travelers Insurance, culminating in the April, 2000, departure of Citibank CEO John Reed.

Fishman, 48, is no stranger to the ways of Weill. The two have worked together for more than a decade, first in the Travelers Insurance division. At the time of his departure, he was also in charge of Citigroup's global risk-management business and the company's consumer businesses in Japan and Australia.

Weill told Citigroup's board he would have a succession plan in place by early 2002. But his foot-dragging may be costing Citigroup top talent. St. Paul presented Fishman with an "opportunity to run his own company. That opportunity may or may not have emerged at Citigroup," says M. Evan Lindsay, senior partner with headhunter Heidrick & Struggles, the firm St. Paul hired to fill its top spot. Citigroup did not return phone calls.


  In an internal memo to Citi management, Weill wrote: "While we will miss his involvement at Citigroup, we understand his desire to take on the role of chairman and chief executive at a public company at this point in his career and wish him well."

He also detailed plans for Fishman's replacement: Chuck Clarke, president and COO of Travelers, will become CEO. Doug Elliot, president and CEO of Travelers' commercial business, will become president and COO. "There are no plans to replace Jay in his Citigroup corporate positions," Weill wrote. Instead, his overseas consumer and risk-management responsibilites will be absorbed by other Citigroup execs.

By Heather Timmons in New York

Edited by Douglas Harbrecht

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