The Sandy Weill story is truly one for the ages. Starting with $30,000 in borrowed cash in 1960, and relying on uncanny entrepreneurial instincts, Sandy created one of the leading securities firms in the U.S. and became one of the best known businessmen in the world. After selling his company to American Express and becoming its president, he experienced a professional setback. Undaunted, he cannily parlayed it into a second career, starting over with a sleepy consumer loan company called Commercial Credit, which over the next seventeen years he transformed into the leading global bank, Citigroup. During this span, Weill as chairman and CEO delivered an astounding 2,600 percent return to investors-better than legendary CEO Jack Welch or investor Warren Buffett during that same period.
Yet success is never an easy path, and Weill divulges the highs and lows. His ascent to power has been documented by the media over the years, but never before has Weill revealed the brutally honest and unvarnished side of an astonishing life and career.
More than an autobiography, CitiGroup CEO and renowned philanthropist Weill delivers an ambitious project that spans more than 50 years of business history and provides real-world advice for investment neophytes and market insiders alike. Weill, a Brooklyn native, started his career in 1960 with a $30,000 loan and a dream, and slowly created an empire; at present, CitiGroup is the largest financial institution in the world, its share price having grown 2,644% since its initial public offering in 1986 (when it was known as Commercial Credit). An inspiring story told with subtlety and candor, Weill's memoir offers something for everyone-from his ten golden rules of leadership to a first-hand explication of the 1990s bull-bear battles on Wall Street, and a candid interview with his wife Joan (complete with her advice for the "Corporate Spouse"). At times emotional and self-congratulatory, this book's purpose is always clear-to celebrate and enshrine Weill's successes. Nonetheless, it also includes salient criticism, and some painful explication of his mistakes along the way. Like the man himself, this book tells it like it is, and has little to hide. Copyright 1997-2005 Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. -- PUBLISHERS WEEKLY.
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October 09, 2006
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Excerpt from The Real Deal by Judah S. Kraushaar
Somehow, I entered into many of my biggest deals over the years in May. The cycle seemed as regular as the seasons: another year, another deal. My colleagues insisted I'd purposely announce an acquisition by Memorial Day simply to wreck their summer vacation plans and demand that we roll up our sleeves with yet another big merger. Looking back on my very first deal, though, I barely could have imagined possessing that sort of sway over other people's lives.
For four years, my friend Arthur Carter and I dreamed of starting our own company. Arthur was a fledgling investment banker at Lehman Brothers while I had made my way from Bear Stearns to Burnham & Company as a young stockbroker. Commuting into Manhattan each morning to our respective jobs, we talked incessantly of pooling our resources and opening our own business. It was the late 1950s; I was in my mid-twenties; and the Space Age was upon us. American industry was benefiting from an explosion of new technologies, and prosperity was in the air. The promise of a new decade was at hand, and the stock market was surging. We had a limited perspective on the securities business, but we were young, optimistic, and infused with self-confidence.
As we imagined our new business, we looked to Allen & Company, the prestigious merchant bank. Charles Allen had made a fortune investing in start-up companies and profiting as the companies in which his firm had ownership stakes sold out to the public. We were drawn to that sort of enterprise but knew we didn't want to stop there. I had experience selling securities to individuals and figured a brokerage business alongside a merchant bank would cover our day-to-day operating costs.
How to produce sufficient cash flow to have enough left over to feed our families soon became our major challenge. Before long, we effectively solved that problem by bringing in two additional partners, Roger Berlind and Peter Potoma. Like me, Roger and Peter were brokers who could be relied upon to generate a steady stream of business while we'd hunt for the episodic and lucrative investment banking deal.
Opening day for Carter, Berlind, Potoma & Weill was thrilling. It was May 2, 1960. We had found a small no-frills office with an address that oozed respectability within sight of the New York Stock Exchange: 37 Wall Street. Along with a newly hired secretary, the four of us spent our first day in cramped quarters opening boxes, getting our phone lines working, and calling as many clients as we could to announce our new venture. Conscious of our young age-we were all in our twenties- Peter Potoma had suggested that we buy hats and black umbrellas so that we might appear older. After all, with our own money on the line, credibility and bringing in new accounts would be more important than ever.
Shortly after we set up shop, the four of us and our wives convened at Arthur's home on Long Island to celebrate. It was a festive occasion, and we all openly shared our aspirations. To this day, I remember the others stressing over and over their desire to become wealthy. Given that Joanie and I were raising two toddlers and lived nearly hand to mouth, the talk was certainly seductive. Still, what I remember most from that dinner was my declaration that the money should be secondary-what mattered more to me was to build a great firm: one that would lead the industry, employ lots of people, endure over many years, and importantly, command respect.