Citigroup announced that chief executive officer Vikram Pandit was stepping down today. So the “king” is dead, or you know, getting ready for a little vacation. That doesn’t mean the rest of us shouldn’t speculate to what did him in.
1. We can buy what Mr. Pandit is selling (though no one really is). Nonetheless: “I’ve been thinking about this for a long time. It was my decision. I made it talking to [Citigroup (C) Chairman Michael] O’Neill, and we did it understanding that the company was ready,” Mr. Pandit told Bloomberg’s Erik Schatzker. “This was decided yesterday afternoon. I made the decision. I talked to Mr. O’Neill. I don’t believe in having lame-duck sessions, in having the outgoing CEO looking over the shoulder of the incoming CEO.”
2. That would be an easier pill to swallow if “sources close to the board,” etc., weren’t running their mouths this way and that, offering an alternate explanation: Citigroup’s board told Mr. Pandit he’d have to leave at the end of the year, and he decided to scram now.
Certainly, there are enough recent black marks on Mr. Pandit’s resume—from Citi’s failed stress test, to its two-grade credit downgrade, the shareholder vote against Mr. Pandit’s pay package or its loss to Morgan Stanley in the valuation of Smith Barney.
3. There’s also the possibility, of course, that there’s more than meets the eye. The Journal reported this morning that investors were chattering that Mr. Pandit’s resignation might preface bad news on the legal or regulatory front, with a couple of analysts uttering the Libor-word in the wake of the news. The leaks from sources close to the board appear to have allayed those concerns to some degree (well done, folks).