- The Washington Times - Sunday, October 8, 2006

After spending his career acquiring one company after another to build the biggest bank in the nation, Sanford “Sandy” Weill has no intention of taking it easy in retirement.

Mr. Weill, who stepped down as chairman of Citigroup Inc. in April, has just completed his first retirement project with the publication this week of an autobiography, “The Real Deal: My Life in Business and Philanthropy.”

Mr. Weill, 73, wrote the book to share some of what he learned in five decades in the investment and banking businesses, he said in his New York office on Fifth Avenue with a panoramic view of Central Park.

“I have been lucky enough to have an extraordinary career so far, and I felt there were a lot of lessons people could get from my experience that could be valuable,” Mr. Weill said.

Among the most important, he said, were learning from mistakes and finding ways to get spouses involved in company activities to secure their support.

Next up will be expanding on charitable work that has him chairing the boards of three major nonprofits: the National Academy Foundation, which he helped found 20 years ago to encourage urban schoolchildren to consider business careers; the Weill Medical College of Cornell University; and New York City’s Carnegie Hall.

Causes such as these, Mr. Weill said, have made it easier for him to leave the high-powered business world, although he continues to be a consultant for Citigroup.

That life was about making money, he said. “Now, my wife and I want to figure out how to give it away.”

The book, which Mr. Weill wrote with former Merrill Lynch analyst Judah S. Kraushaar, makes it clear that Mr. Weill credits a great deal of his success to Joan, his wife of 51 years.

Mr. Weill dedicates the 528-page book to her and lets her have her own chapter to give her views of their life together.

In the early years of their marriage, he said, he was earning so little as a “runner” at a brokerage firm that they had to cover the rent out of her paycheck as a part-time elementary school teacher.

“I still owe her, I think,” Mr. Weill said.

Mrs. Weill acknowledges it was difficult at times being married to a corporate chieftain, including his long hours away from home while she was mothering their two children, Marc, born in 1956, and Jessica, born in 1959.

That said, she also appreciated the opportunity to participate in his career.

“Sandy shared what was going on with business. Always,” she says. “This is something that was helpful to our relationship.”

In the interview, Mr. Weill spoke about the lessons he learned, such as the importance of not giving up when things didn’t go right.

“There were lots of things that didn’t work out right,” he said. “I’d put it aside and think about the next opportunity. … I didn’t spend a lot of time worrying about the past.”

He gave two examples where this strategy paid off:

In 1978, he was close to buying investment bank Kuhn, Loeb & Co. But the story leaked to the press, and the deal collapsed; Kuhn, Loeb & Co later merged with Lehman Brothers. But a year later, Mr. Weill said, his firm Shearson, Hayden, Stone was able to buy another, bigger bank, Loeb, Rhoades, Hornblower & Co.

“I wouldn’t have been able to do the second [deal] if I had done the first,” he said.

A similar thing happened in the 1990s, when Mr. Weill was acquiring insurance companies and brokerages at an increasingly fast clip.

In 1997, he said, he talked to J.P. Morgan about a merger, “but that didn’t happen.” The next year, he merged his company with Citicorp and had most of the ingredients of what became Citigroup, a financial services behemoth with more than $1.6 trillion in assets.

Mr. Weill generally took the name of the company he acquired for the business, and his wife quipped: “You know, the only time Sandy didn’t change his name was when he married me.”

Regrets, he had a few.

One was a disastrous interlude at American Express. He sold Shearson to the big travel services and credit card company in 1981 and became president in 1983. But he couldn’t stand being the No. 2 and resigned in June 1985.

A high point of his career, he said, was buying Shearson back in 1993, with everyone feeling “happy to be coming home.”

Shearson is now part of the Smith Barney unit of Citigroup.

Mr. Weill’s plans include a number of philanthropy projects abroad. One of the many photos in his office is of Mr. Weill receiving a medal from Pakistan’s president, Gen. Pervez Musharraf, for helping to raise more than $116 million to help Pakistani victims of a massive 2005 earthquake.

He also is working on creation of a medical center in Tanzania and soon will travel to Doha, Qatar, to see the new Weill Cornell Medical College being built there.

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