Citi Chairman John Reed was Executive VP for the Individual Bank when I joined the firm as a Management Associate on August 14, 1978.
The LoRusso-Citi thingie was already pretty well established as my Dad, Joe, was in his almost 30th year & my older sister, Rosemarie, worked as a teller @ the 55 Wall Street branch during a few summers. In addition, my cousin, Lulu (Louise), worked for an attorney who represented Citi.
(Later on, my younger sister worked as a teller at a few Manhattan branches & my nephew/Godson/math whiz, Joe Leto, joined the U.S. Citibanking Finance group & is now a VP down in Tampa! Growing up, whenever Joey saw a picture or a model of Citicorp Center – – the unique skyscraper with the famous slanted roof, across from the former HQ @ 399 Park Ave – – he’d always refer to it as “Grandpa’s building”.
And if you’ve ever watched “Law & Order”…”dun, dun”…you would’ve seen it during the opening credits.)
Mr. Reed & I peed together while I was at a celebratory banquet at 399 Park Ave with the Brooklyn/Staten Island Region leadership team. (Pls note: It was in the men’s room, at adjoining urinals.)
By law, I was prohibiting from actually speaking to him (or anyone, for that matter) while standing at the urinal, but I did glance over (😳) & give him an acknowledging nod.
No, not for that…as a sign of respect, silly! 🙄
Our close relationship really developed after I wrote him a 4-page letter when I was in San Antonio in ‘97, running Micrographics.
I had just read an article in “Golf” magazine about “Golfing CEOs”.
This was shortly after the merger announcement with the Travelers Group (worst moment in Citi history). The details were still being ironed out, but it was already known that Mr. Reed & Sandy Weill (☠️ 🤬) would serve as co-Chairmen.
In the article, I noticed both John’s handicap (12) as well as Sandy’s (18) & decided to pounce on the situation. (Note: In golf, the lower your handicap, the better golfer you are. The handicap represents the average number of strokes you take during a round that “exceeds par”. Excellent golfers “carry” a single-digit handicap while the pros all have a negative #. I had about a 16 handicap back in the day…though Terry Jewell had me at a 10-12 for our Citi Thursday evening league “down the block” at the Golf Club of Texas.)
I wrote this long, rambling 4-page letter to Mr. Reed (yes, I printed!), acknowledging his golfing prowess & his obvious superiority over the Devil himself!
I encouraged him to buy a copy of “Golf” & take the article and shove it in Sandy’s face while tap-dancing on his big ol’ desk!
I included some other stuff (like how his office once helped me with my late Dad’s retirement pension & my memories, including our joint urination, of him) as I have this habit of writing like I speak.
And since the Citi Board Of Directors had already planned for their quarterly meeting to be held at our USCC site here in San Antonio later that year, I also invited him to come out & golf with me, USCC CEO Mark Devine & my buddy, Richard Green.
I then put the letter in a normal white envelope, placed a stamp on it, wrote MY address as the destination & put HIS name/location as the sender.
I then stamped “Returned Mail” on the envelope, making it appear that HE had sent a letter to ME. I also wrote “Personal & Confidential” on the envelope. And I made it look like the stamp was canceled by the Post Office!
I then placed this “returned letter from him to me” in a big ol’ brown inter-office envelope & sent it to him @ 399 Park.
In this way, instead of his Executive Communications Unit intercepting my letter & opening it (as they normally would do) or his Executive Secretary doing something similarly, there would be a very good chance that the letter itself would be opened & handled by him personally (as his staff would think he wrote to me directly, but now the letter’s being returned).
It’s an old trick I learned at the reformatory (juvenile detention center).
I didn’t really know if it worked for another couple of weeks still, but…
A few weeks later, Enrique Perez was handing out all the mail to us in Micrographics & I got my usual load of inter-office mail envelopes, a few magazines & flyers and then…
…there was this small brown envelope, probably the size of a formal wedding invite.
It had my name & inter-office address printed on the front.
The sender’s name & address was printed on the back.
In a very distinctive handwriting, I might add.
John S. Reed, 70 Independence Dr, Princeton, NJ 08450
He wrote back to me on his personalized stationery. Blew my mind! 💥
Later that year, when he came down to Texas for the Board meeting & the prerequisite tour of our facility, he came around to my Micrographics area…surrounded, of course, by a huge swarm of hangers-on (Board members, his henchmen, USCC Senior Directors, etc.).
He entered our department & our eyes met.
*cue the chirping birds & the babbling brook sounds, accompanied by the sweet melody of violins serenading us*
He smiled broadly & headed straight over to me!
He obviously remembered me & the letter. He gave me a nice hug! (And they definitely briefed him…right before he entered…on where he was going, what that unit did & who was in charge, the person with whom he would be speaking.)
He turned & looked at all the stuffed shirts mulling around us & said, “Sorry, Mike, but I can’t ditch these guys. They never seem to leave me alone.
“I’m sorry, but I don’t think they’ll allow me to get away for a quick round!”
“But, Mr. Reed, you’re the big honcho!”
“I know”, he replied, “but now with Sandy around…”
We had ourselves a nice little chat.
I then gave a quick review of our business (my people, led by Doris Pilgrim, were the absolute bomb & our performance was truly spectacular!!!) to all our special guests.
He returned to shake my hand & again, we exchanged some pleasantries.
“Are you sure, Mr. Reed?”
I could see some of the faces on our senior management team, like “WTF!?! You can’t actually have a personal conversation with him! He’s like the Citi Pope!!!”
I smirked & bid everyone a very good day.
As always, thank you so much for listening!
Oh, BTW, although I was an absolute terror as a kid, my Mom…92 years old now & living at the Golden Gate Nursing Home on Staten Island…never quite sent me to the reformatory.
Nor to the orphanage.
And neither to the convent of cloistered nuns on some hilltop in Europe to live a totally-secluded life of penance & prayer.
I was gonna say something about “not getting into the habit”, but that would be so wrong!!! < < Pls lemme know if you require an explanation
*steps aboard the express bus…waves good-bye to everyone…next stop, the Gates of Hell 🔥🔥🔥*