CitiGroup CEO Vikram Pandit and his right hand man, COO John Havens, took the financial world by surprise this morning and announced their resignations from the financial giant effectively immediately—an abrupt change from two months ago when Pandit said he was looking forward to spending several years as the bank's CEO.
Initial reactions from analysts aren't buying a word of the amicable release from CitiGroup and Pandit, Fox Business's Charles Gasparino ("lets stop dancing around what's obvious vikram pandit was fired") believe it was a firing, while Moneywatch's Jill Schlesinger believes "the more likely scenario is some combination of Pandit being sick of fighting the fight and a board that wanted a change." The Wall Street Journal's team of David Enrich, Gregory Zuckerman, and Saabira Chaudhuri are reporting that the departure was less friendly than the press releases suggest. "Chief Executive Vikram Pandit abruptly stepped down following a clash with the New York company's board over strategy and operating performance at businesses including its institutional clients group, according to people with knowledge of the bank," they write.
Regardless of who disliked working with whom more, Pandit's departure is a major shock since we, and he expected him to be Citi's top guy for a at least a few more years. Back in August, there were murmurs of a succession plan at CitiGroup in place, but even then, The Wall Street Journal's Suzanne Kapner had reported, "A CEO change isn't imminent. The 55-year-old Mr. Pandit has told colleagues that he intends to stay for several years, until the banking giant is on stronger footing and he has more fully put his stamp on the company."
And he timing of Pandit's resignation comes on the heels of some not-so-great news for the financial conglomerate. The Wall Street Journal's David Benoit points out, "one day after the bank reported an 88 percent drop in third-quarter profits thanks to several one-time items, but strengthened its capital position and posted what were viewed as strong underlying earnings." That huge drop in profits obviously wasn't a good thing for Pandit and, as Business Insider's Joe Weisenthal points out, "Yesterday, the bank's earnings beat expectations, so that just adds to the shock."
Pandit and CitiGroup's official release on the resignation has (understandably) no mention of the friction or speculation (Pandit's quoted saying, "I have concluded that now is the right time for someone else to take the helm at Citigroup") but there are a lot of well wishes.