Friday, November 9, 2007

Citigroup's Prince Alwaleed Speaks

Andy Serwer and Barney Gimbel at Fortune got an interview with Citigroup's (C) largest individual shareholder Prince Alwaleed who holds 3.6% of the $150 billion dollar company.

Some excerpts:

Why he withdrew his support for CEO Chuck Prince:

"You cannot come to the public and say that this normalization is expected in the fourth quarter and then three weeks later, not three months later, you come and say there is an $11 billion writeoff. This is unacceptable. That's when the events changed completely. My backing was withdrawn dramatically. You should never commit to something that you can't deliver. Never."

Is he supporting Sandy Weill for CEO?

"No, no, Sandy is not seeking to be president. What Sandy likes to do is to be involved in the process of selecting a new boss. Sandy told me, "I have no aspirations whatsoever to be CEO or chairman."

However, he would like to be involved in the process of selecting the boss for Citi because Citi can't afford to have another loss. The situation right now is unacceptable for a bank like Citi with $2.5 trillion in assets and $120 billion of equity, and is in more than 100 countries. It's a pity for Citibank to be in this position. It's not right. We can't afford to have another blunder like that. "

Who should the next CEO be?

"Frankly speaking, I don't have anybody in mind. I trust Mr. Rubin. I trust Mr. Bischoff. I trust Mr. Parsons. The selection process has to be very careful and they should take their time finding the right guy. My recommendation and advice for them is they don't hire anyone unless this guy has expertise in banking. I told them, next time no lawyer, please."

Is he selling?

"I will sell nothing. We are selling nothing. I want to make it clear that I fully support the leadership of Citigroup and think it is a very strong company with a good future.

You remember something very important, that the average [price at which] I bought Citibank was $2.75 per share adjusted for stock splits. That's my average. But still Citibank does not deserve to be where it is right now. It is a pity what is happening, but I hope that a big lesson is learned in the board of directors and the management of Citibank. "

Is a deal in the works?

"It is not time for that right now, for sure. I am against it now. Not at this price, for sure. It would not be fair for the shareholders of Citibank at all. I mean even after the stock went down, Citibank is still worth $160 billion. It's still a force to be reckoned with. I mean, how many companies in the world can withstand a writeoff of $6 billion and another writeoff of $8 to $11 billion three weeks later, and still stand on its own feet? Not many"

Read the whole interview here:

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