Citigroup picks veteran to replace Pandit as CEO

NEW YORK (AP) — In picking Michael Corbat to take over as CEO of Citigroup, the board of directors chose a low-profile veteran of the bank — a sharp contrast to Vikram Pandit, his suddenly departed predecessor.

Corbat, 52, has spent his entire career at Citigroup and its affiliated businesses. A former All-American offensive lineman on Harvard’s football team, Corbat worked his way up the ranks at Salomon Brothers, helped Citi navigate the 2008 financial crisis, rebuilt its credit-card business and, most recently, ran the bank’s operations in Europe, the Middle East and Africa.

Perhaps partly because he has spent so much time at one bank and partly because of the sudden nature of his elevation, few on Wall Street had a quick opinion about him on Tuesday.

“Michael Corbat isn’t well known to the Street, and his future strategic direction for the company is uncertain,” Jason Goldberg, a banking analyst at Barclays, wrote in a note to clients.

But it seemed nearly every analyst had an opinion about Pandit, who has led the bank for five years. Pandit spent most of his career at Morgan Stanley, then left to start a hedge fund, Old Lane Partners. When Citi bought Old Lane for $800 million in April 2007, Pandit came with it, and wound up as CEO before the year was out.

Sheila Bair, the former chairwoman of the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp., criticized Pandit and offered tentative praise for Corbat in an interview with CNBC.

She said Citigroup needed a CEO with international experience and a traditional banking background, both of which Corbat has.

“The board is doing the right thing here,” Bair said.

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