The cover story in The New York Times Magazine on Sunday, Aug. 27, “The Sandy Weill Method,” was rife with malicious innuendo and mean-spirited characterizations. The reporter, Roger Lowenstein, and the editors of The Times Magazine chose to lace the profile with petty assaults on Sandy Weill’s personal style rather than focus on an extraordinary career–particularly the last 15 years, when Mr. Weill took a broken-down credit company with half a billion dollars of market value and created arguably the most profitable company in the country, with a market value of more than $250 billion.
“Superficially ordinary,” “moderately articulate,” “lacking in grace,” “exploding,” “screaming”–again and again, Lowenstein denigrates Weill, describes his philanthropic activities with a snide sarcasm and even goes so far as to cast gratuitous aspersions on his son, Marc. To the point where one has to wonder where all the venom is coming from. We can only speculate that Lowenstein disliked Weill from the outset, or that the editors of The Times Magazine decided they must shed its image of being a narcoleptic read and show some edge, and Sandy Weill was the guinea pig. Unfortunately, a rancid whiff of anti-Semitism permeated the piece, beginning with the front cover, where the editors had to go to great lengths to come up with an image so maligning and unflattering.
What about the comparisons with Jack Welch and Warren Buffett, in which Mr. Weill is described as having “no special genius in finance,” when in fact it took a special genius in finance to create the Citigroup colossus that Sandy Weill single-handedly put together? Let’s not forget that Welch inherited one of the powerhouses of industrial America and Buffett is a great stock picker. But neither Buffett nor Welch did what Weill did. The creation of Citigroup rivals the industrial myths of the early 20th century–U.S. Steel and Standard Oil. No one ever chose to document the number of executives fired by Welch or Buffett, and yet the underpinning of the Weill profile is how many executives and protégés were terminated by Weill. Perhaps many were redundant deadwood who started to believe their own press notices. Does anyone believe that when mergers take place, firings don’t follow? The recruitment of former Treasury Secretary Robert Rubin, who was sought after by every boardroom in the country, says quite a lot about the environment and organization at Citigroup.
The Citigroup stock is up 3,000 percent in the past 15 years. The company employs 200,000 in more than 100 countries. With $12 billion in annual earnings on a solid balance sheet, it may be the most profitable company in the world. Need we say more?
The U.S. Open
When fans turned out for the first round of the United States Open in Flushing Meadows, a furious debate broke out–not about tennis, but about art. At issue was a controversial statue depicting the late Arthur Ashe in the nude. Whatever the piece’s artistic merits, it served as a reminder of this city’s astonishing array of interests. Where else do sports fans get into passionate arguments about public art?
There was also plenty of art to observe on the court. As of Labor Day, Venus Williams had stretched her unbeaten streak to 23 matches. Monica Seles and Jennifer Capriati brought fans back in time to their memorable battle in 1991, when both were teenagers. Both players are wily veterans now, and Ms. Seles won again, this time with greater ease. Just by being on the same court at the same time, however, they demonstrated the power of rivalry that is at the heart of any great athletic event. On the men’s side, unseeded players like Hyung-Taik Lee, Wayne Arthurs, Thomas Johansson and Andrei Pavel suddenly found themselves playing in the fourth round along with Pete Sampras. Top-seeded Andre Agassi was an early casualty, distracted by the illness of his mother and sister. The unfamiliar players still kicking around in the tournament’s second week suggest that the Open will give birth to new rivalries, and new epics, in the new century.
The cast of characters may change, but the Open remains an example of New York at its finest, a top-flight tournament that, year in and year out, is run with class and style. It’s easy to take the Open for granted. We shouldn’t. It’s part of what makes New York a world-class city with world-class fans. And art critics.
The Costs of Divorce
Are you a well-educated, well-paid woman stuck in a bad marriage, but don’t want to leave because you are concerned about the effects on your infant or toddler? Well, according to a new study at the University of California-Irvine, you may not have to worry so much about the repercussions of divorce on your little one. For kids up to 3 years old, the researchers found that if the mother was able to maintain her high income after the divorce, her children tended to do just fine. Researchers found that highly educated women tend not to get as depressed as other women in the face of a marital split, and can maintain positive interactions with their kids.
“It’s not the separation per se that affects children negatively,” researcher Alison Clarke-Stewart told the American Psychological Association’s Monitor on Psychology . “It’s family income and mothers’ emotional well-being that are important.” While older children from all income brackets suffer emotional, social and cognitive setbacks from divorce, the researchers reported that very young children whose parents divorce were virtually indistinguishable from kids from two-parent families, as long as the mother was able to sustain the pre-divorce lifestyle.
“If a mother can stand on her own two feet without the father’s income,” said Ms. Clarke-Stewart, “she and the children won’t suffer negative effects. But if the money goes along with dad, mothers get depressed and their children aren’t as well off.” Which means that before a woman asks for a divorce, she might want to ask for a raise.