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Confusion Reigns Over No. 2 Job at Citi

Friday, 19 Oct 2012 | 4:24 PM ET
AP

James Forese, the popular head of securities and banking at Citigroup, was offered the chance to become the bank's president and chief operating officer shortly after the surprise resignations of Citi's chief executive and president and chief operating officer, Vikram Pandit and John Havens, according to someone familiar with the matter.

But Forese, a Salomon Bros. alumnus who once ran Citi's fixed-income division, has indicated that he isn't interested in pursuing the job, this person said, leaving a vacuum at the top.

CNBC's Kelly: Citi's Forese Informally Offered COO
Confusion seems to be reigning over at Citigroup where CEO Vikram Pandit resigned unexpectedly earlier this week. CNBC's Kate Kelly reports Securities and Banking Chief James Forese was unofficially offered the President/COO title, but Forese is reluctant to the role.

In the days since Pandit abruptly quit on Tuesday morning, confusion has reigned at Citigroup, where the departure was unexpected. Pandit reportedly left amid tension with board chairman Mike O'Neill and other directors over Citi's rapport with regulators, its tiff with Morgan Stanley over the valuation of its brokerage firm, and its compensation policies, among other things. Pandit has told CNBC the decision to leave was his.

(Read More: Pandit's Sudden Exit - What Really Happened at Citi?)

In tandem with his resignation, Pandit's longtime lieutenant, Havens, also elected to leave, and bank officials — including new chief executive Michael Corbat — have said nothing about their plans to replace him. (Read More: Michael Corbat's Memo to Citi)

Board members approached Forese about the possibility of replacing Havens in the immediate aftermath of Pandit's decision, says the person familiar with the matter. But he indicated that he wasn't interested in the post, perhaps because of the public scrutiny it would bring to his work and compensation, this person added, saying that the board members who approached Forese told him to consider the idea a little longer before turning it down definitively.

At the same time, Manuel Medina-Mora, CEO of Citi's global consumer banking group, was approached about the idea of becoming president and chief operating officer, say two people familiar with the matter. The initial overtures to both Medina-Mora and Forese were reported earlier this week by the Wall Street Journal. (Read More: Citi's Chairman Steps Up to a Decisive Role)

What will happen to the No. 2 job if Forese turns it down, as he is expected to do, is as yet unclear. Medina-Mora does not appear to have ruled out taking the job. But new Citi chief Corbat and the bank's board are also considering the idea of scrapping the president-COO post entirely, say two other people familiar with the matter.

-By CNBC's Kate Kelly
@KateKellyCNBC

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