I remember the incredibly-uneasy (that’s code for 🤮) feelings I had after the Citi-Travelers merger in the late 1990s.
I hated the thought of combining our company with that snake oil salesman, Sandy Weill! I had done considerable research on him & the manner in which he gobbled up, then spit out, different firms along the way.
I only thing I admired about him & his conglomerate was the brokerage firm, Smith Barney. They had a wonderful reputation…or so I thought.
Come to think of it, I was probably swayed by their TV commercials. “We make money…the old fashioned way. We earn it!”
There was nothing else I liked, much less admired, about the Travelers conglomerate, their leaders & their philosophies.
And as I came into contact with them more & more…Primerica, Weill, Joe Plumeri, Associates, etc….I saw right through their thinly-veiled disguises that hid their true mission as money-hungry thieves.
> The way they raped the Citi pension fund of ~$700MM in “excess funds” as one of their first official actions.
> The way they froze our pensions (it would be 401Ks going forward) & would only grandfather those employees who were 45 years or older AND had at least 5 years of service! (At least other companies had a “magic number” to meet to stay grandfathered in the traditional pension plan. A magic number (usually in the 50-60 range…on the threat of a class act suit, IBM lowered theirs from 65 to 55) would ADD one’s age to years of service and NOT have separate distinct requirements.
I was 43 1/2 with over 20 years of service…yet was not grandfathered into the pension plan. This has personally cost me ~$500K conservatively, not to mention the incredible losses I incurred when Citigroup stock completely tanked as well as the stock market of 2008 (Great Mortgage Crisis).
Had a good buddy @ the USCC who missed the age requirement by a couple of weeks! Born in mid-January of 1955 w/ 20+ years of service.
Had his family known way back when, his Dad may have induced Mrs. Doe in December of 1954!
And yet, I knew a guy who was in his late 40s with a little more than 6 years @ Citi…and he got grandfathered in!!!
Then the worst part of all (at least it was at the time) is that I got asked by HR & the USCC CEO to talk to EVERY SINGLE USCC EMPLOYEE, in groups of 25-100, and play up the fact of “just how wonderful it is to have a 401K instead of a pension” while I, myself, did not believe one damned word I said!!!
“Oh, you can choose your own investment options!”
“A 401K is portable! It goes with you, even if you leave Citi!”
I must’ve given ~50-60 presentations, smiling like a fool, answering every employee’s question, avoiding giving my own opinion (especially the fact that I, along with thousands upon thousands of other Citi employees, got royally screwed), maintaining the corporate line.
I felt dirty.
Absolutely disgusted with myself.
In private, I let my true feelings out, but I always put on that stupid 🤡 face when I spoke to the 2,500+ employees.
> The way that scum bucket Weill took advantage of John Reed & basically, ousted him from Citi.
They served as co-CEOs & co-Chairmen for a few years, a marriage that would never, ever last.
It was doomed from the start. When you have 2 equal leaders, you have no leader.
They agreed to meet with the board & present their proposals on how to lead Citi going forward.
John Reed went first. Of course, he was meticulously prepared & presented a realistic, workable solution to the dilemma. They would divide the kingdom, blah, blah, blah.
Then it was the snake’s turn.
He offered no proposal…just an ultimatum!
“You must decide now, right now. Is it gonna be John or me? If you don’t decide right now, I’m walking out!”
Not sure if he also threatened to leave, along with his loyal lieutenants, if they didn’t select him as the sole Chairman/CEO.
Backed into a corner, the Board voted & chose Sandy.
Just another one of his sneaky-ass tactics, but probably his greatest coup to date.
And the worst thing that ever happened to Citi!
BTW, this stuff has been verified in several publications since.
> But the one thing that really pissed me off during the early years of the merger was the “Blue-n-Red Organization Chart” that got regularly distributed.
Actually, I should’ve called it the “Red VS. Blue Org Chart”!
I believe it might have been after Mr. Reed’s ouster when Corporate HR would distribute these Citigroup org charts that started at the CEO & went down a few levels.
With as wide & diverse a conglomerate as the new Citigroup was, it probably included about 35-40 different senior officers across the entire corporate sphere & down one level into each subsidiary
And they had the audacity to color-code each box as to whether the individual was originally from Citi (blue) or Travelers (red).
Travelers was a mish-mash of all different financial services companies…insurance, brokerage, personal finance, whatever the hell Primerica was, etc…so the org chart itself contained all these separate entities, along with Citibank & many corporate level departments. And despite the relative size of Citibank (compared to the other companies), I don’t believe it extended much further downward than our President at the time, Victor Menezes.
The first org chart was probably 65/35 red.
Then with each monthly reiteration, it got redder & redder.
Just like a bloody murder scene.
At one point, there were only 2 blue boxes…one for Victor & another was for some corporate staff officer!!!
Look, I’m fine with distributing information about our corporate structure to as many employees as possible, but I often questioned these bastards’ motives.
Was this a power play? A flexing of “their” muscles? A tangible suggestion that it would be better if the blue were wiped out entirely?
For the first time in my career, I was truly embarrassed by what my beloved company had become.
I despised that ugly-ass red umbrella that became the new Citi logo.
I despised the cutthroat seniors & their arrogance.
I despised how the basic values that built & grew this great corporation were tossed aside for the “chew & devour” approach at business.
I despised anything & everything red.
With a Dad who worked for Citi (originally, First National City Bank) for over 35 years…two sisters who worked as tellers…an Aunt & a cousin whose law firms for which they worked dealt primarily with Citi…my nephew/Godson who was quickly climbing the ranks with Finance @ Court Square, I always…then, now & forever…bled Citibank BLUE!
Since that merger, Citigroup has shed & sold off every last vestige of what Travelers brought to the party.
And beginning right about the time that John Reed was unceremoniously booted out, our beloved company began to lose the luster it once enjoyed.
Governments across the globe (here, Germany, Japan, etc.) began taking a very dim view of our business practices.
And our stock…once the jewel of Wall Street with his constant upward valuation, good dividend payouts & regular splits (an accounting move that often resulted in it doubling its value in just a few years…started its precipitous fall downward.
It had peaked at 53 1/8 that fateful day, about 1:30 in the morning, when I switched my ENTIRE 401K from a very diversified array of different funds & financial products into Fund B – Citigroup common stock…100% of it!
I figured that I would sell when it hit the 60s & make myself a nice tidy 15% return in a few months.
Little did I know that somehow told the whole Wall Street community & most of the world about my greedy…and oh sooooo stupid!…move when the market opened for business.
The stock NEVER got any higher than 53 1/8 & became its steady downward spiral…all the way to ~4!
When it dropped to 50, I was like, “Be patient! It’s Citigroup stock! Just a temporary aberration!”
Similar thought pattern @ 40. “We’re making mucho profits, we’re well-diversified, we got solid numbers!”
And again at 30. Too late to sell now & incur a 40% loss. It’ll snap back.
20. 😭 😭 😭
I finally ran out of patience in the low teens & switched my 401K investment back to a more reasonable mix. But I had already taken a bath…over a 75% devaluation in total.
20 years later, the stock has yet to rebound!!!
(Note: Pls don’t be fooled by the current C price of 65 3/4. Back a few years ago, they did a “reverse 1:10 stock split”!
Normally, a corporation splits its stock into 2…for every $50 share you own, you now receive 2 $25 shares instead.
The total value remains the same, but it’s a mind-game move as the company believe the market “remembers” the original $50 price & now keeps “bidding up” the (now) $25 share price.
That move has worked outstandingly well for C stock through the years.
But with this “reverse split”, you got 1 share (@ around $42 per) for every 10 shares you owned (@ 4 1/4)!
Your total investment remained the same, but you now owned 1/10th as many shares…at a “less embarrassing” price of $42.
Stock splits lower the per-share price to attract investors into thinking they’re getting a bargain.
“Reverse stock splits” are merely done to save face.
Today’s share price of 65 3/4 is really 6 5/8 (before the reverse split).
Smoke & mirrors.
Once the most highly-regarded financial services company in the world…with a stock that most analysts would readily recommend as a staple in your investment mix…has to depend on sleight of hand to “look good”.
And it all started that rainy Sunday evening in February 1997 when John “Goldilocks” Reed, picked up the phone in his home in Princeton, NJ…
…and the Wolf was on the line, proposing a merger of their 2 companies.
That’s about all I have for now.
As always, I thank you so very much for listening!
Spot on for your article on Red vs Blue… I remember the time we all had to dress up and go to Sea World for him only to be insulted when he did the “ Swim with the fishes” comment.
I despised that whole period in our history…and Citi has never been the same since! That merger was the worst move ever!
Such a shame.