This morning's New York Times reports that Citigroup Inc.'s (NYSE: C) Todd Thomson was ousted from his role as head of global wealth management yesterday.
Thomson, a former Bain consultant and Citigroup CFO who in 2005 touted that role as "the conscience of a company", was hired from General Electric Company (NYSE: GE) by former CEO Sanford Weill. According to the New York Times, Thomson had disagreements with Citigroup CEO, Chuck Prince, over acquisitions and business strategy.
But the kicker was that Thomson arranged to make Citigroup's corporate jet available to GE's NBC Universal's CNBC reporter, Maria Bartiromo, so she could fly to Asia. Beyond a DealBreaker Blind Item suggesting that Bartiromo may have played a part in Thomson's leaving his wife and family, this event raises troubling governance questions:
- What did Prince know about this and when did he know it?
- Are there other governance issues at Citigroup that Prince has yet to clean up?
- Why can't CNBC arrange transportation for its employees on its own?
- Doesn't this cozy relationship with Citigroup compromise the objectivity of Bartiromo's reporting on Citigroup?
- Have other companies arranged such travel for Bartiromo or other CNBC reporters?
While CNBC noted that it paid for the plane trip, it looks like CNBC and Citigroup have some more explaining to do.
Peter Cohan is President of Peter S. Cohan & Associates, a management consulting and venture capital firm, a Professor of Management at Babson College, and editor of The Cohan Letter. He has appeared as a guest on CNBC and owns Citigroup and GE stock.