Charles Prince knew that his corporate future could depend on his ability to appease the government officials investigating a variety of things at the company, including its research analysts, consumer lending subsidiaries and dealings with Enron Corp.
He hammered out a series of high-profile settlements, impressing regulators and legislators with his ability to get to the bottom of issues and willingness to institute reforms. Today, he parlayed that success into a promotion to Citigroup’s top job, where insiders hope he will use those skills to help the nation’s largest financial services company consolidate its tremendous gains after years of rapid growth and months of scandal under the leadership of Sanford I. Weill.
But those who expect change as Weill steps aside as chief executive may be disappointed. Several government officials said privately that they assume Prince, a longtime lawyer with little independent business experience, will run the bank the way Weill wants him to.
A graduate of the University of Southern California law school with a master’s degree from Georgetown University, Prince, 53, moved east to take corporate law jobs with U.S. Steel Corp. and the Commercial Credit Co.
In 1986, Weill joined that troubled Baltimore finance company and used it to launch the acquisitive march that culminated in the 1998 creation of Citigroup. Along the way, Prince became Weill’s troubleshooter and confidant, negotiating acquisitions and dealing with regulatory problems. He also was Weill’s point man in an effort to persuade Congress to revise laws that limited banks’ ability to engage in other businesses.