“I think I am just ready for something—to do something new,” he told reporters late last month.
HE IS JOINING a team that has not been doing well.
Citi’s communications office was reorganized in the middle of 2008, when spokesperson Leah Johnson resigned. According to an announcement then, Kate James took over communications strategy, media relations and issues management, but she reported to Lisa Caputo, who had been the chief marketing officer, who in turn reported to chief administrative officer Don Callahan.
Still, vice chairman Lewis B. Kaden was the one BusinessWeek called the bank’s public-relations campaigner in August 2009, when he had “interviewed consulting firms as part of an effort to reshape Citi’s media and communications strategy.”
There were times last year when Citi’s head of media relations, Shannon Bell, was reporting to an executive named Susan Thomson, who reported to Ms. James. Meanwhile, Citi was using Walter Montgomery—from an outside firm, Robinson Lerer & Montgomery—for public-relations help.
Names have come and gone from that mishmash: Ms. Thomson and Ms. James have both left the bank, and Mr. Callahan and Mr. Kaden were reportedly stripped of significant duties earlier this year.
It has not been a good time for jumbled communication. Last year, when the bailed-out bank was said to have ordered a $50 million corporate jet with “plush interior with leather seats, sofas and a customizable entertainment center,” it took public pressure from the White House before Citi announced it was canceling the order. “Why should I help you?” was the response to a reporter when the Post first broke the story.
It will help that Mr. Skyler is reporting directly to Mr. Pandit. “This is one thing we’re looking for Ed to do: to unify all the messages in Citi within one framework, within one consistent thing,” chairman Dick Parsons told The Observer last week.
“That industry can do a much better job of making people understand its impact on people’s livelihoods,” said Bradley Tusk, the campaign manager for the mayor’s last reelection bid. “It’s a force that creates a lot of jobs, and has a tremendous impact on the city and well-being. It’s incumbent on Wall Street to make that case more effectively.”
That message will be shaped as the once near-dead bank gets back on its feet: Citi announced a $4.4 billion profit last week, and the U.S. Treasury said Monday that it plans to begin selling off its enormous stake. “My grandmother once told me the two hallmarks of a great man, which she wanted me to become, are humility and grace,” Mr. Parsons said. “And I think something can be said about institutions in that respect.”
“He’s being hired to handle a disaster,” Mr. Kirtzman said. “And I’d hire him for that.