Honig International in the News

July 15, 2005
Citigroup's No. 2 Man Courts Top Job -- Elsewhere
By Jonathan Stempel

SITUATION WANTED: Top executive at world's largest bank seeks CEO job at public financial services company. Extensive personnel and management skills. High mileage, excellent condition. Call with ideas.

The imminent departure of Robert Willumstad as Citigroup Inc.'s second-in-command to pursue a longtime goal to become the top executive somewhere else may create a race among other companies to keep him off the unemployment line.

"Any large, global financial services company would benefit from his years of experience and perspective across a breadth of arenas," said Connie McCann, head of North American financial services for executive search firm Spencer Stuart.

Willumstad, Citigroup's president and chief operating officer, announced his resignation on Thursday, two years after Wall Street legend Sanford "Sandy" Weill passed over him to give the CEO job to another protege, Charles Prince.

Willumstad, 59, said on a conference call that he wants to run a public company, "certainly in financial services," but that there was nothing in the pipeline.

That will change fast, if it hasn't already, executive recruiters said.

"When you work for Sandy Weill, you're going to get a lot of calls," said Mark Springer, president of M.H. Springer & Associates in Westlake Village, California. "When you have the (resume) Willumstad has, you're going to get all the calls."

After 20 years at Chemical Bank, Willumstad spent 11 years helping Weill build the former Commercial Credit Co., a small consumer lender, into what in 1998 became Citigroup. From 2000 to 2003, he ran Citigroup's consumer operations, which are now led by Marjorie Magner. In Willumstad's final year, the unit reported a $9.65 billion profit.


Most places he could perhaps go to are smaller and lack Citigroup's global reach. "If he's serious about being CEO of a global entity, you could limit yourself to fewer than 20 companies," said Barry Honig, president of Honig International in Tenafly, New Jersey. "It might be interesting for a more-U.S. focused entity to look at him if it wants more of a global reach."

Steve Mader, vice chair at Christian & Timbers, said Willumstad might also appeal to companies grooming younger talent not yet ready for the top spot, solving any "successor gap" issues.
"They can bring someone in to perhaps run a company for three or four years, and help cultivate talent underneath," he said.

Still, most big financial services companies have CEOs years away from retirement age. Some reports said mortgage financier Fannie Mae wanted to hire Willumstad, but failed. Another Weill protege, Jamie Dimon, took a different route, decamping to Chicago in 2000, more than a year after his ouster from Citigroup, to run Bank One Corp. Four years later, he merged Bank One into JPMorgan Chase & Co., and in 2006 will become that bank's CEO. McCann, who worked for a year-and-a-half under Willumstad at Chemical Bank, called her former boss "an effective motivator of people, especially a sales force."

Willumstad joked on the call that people with good job offers should call him. He gave his office phone number.