Michael Corbat at the 2011 Green Summit From Farm to Fork at Citibank's New York offices in November.(Photo: Jason Kempin, Getty Images)
Long before he was named Citigroup's CEO Tuesday, Michael Corbat was an NFL prospect at Harvard.
school's newspaper reported in the fall of 1982 that a half-dozen
National Football League teams were giving Corbat a good look. All the
6-foot-3, 230-pound Corbat would have to do is gain 20-plus pounds.
But the all-Ivy offensive guard wanted to go into business instead.
"Right now, playing in the NFL would only be the icing on the cake," he told The Harvard Crimson. If he wanted to play professional football, he would've played in college at a big-time football program.
he turned to his other passion: business. He took a job as an
investment banker at Salomon Bros. after graduating from Harvard in 1983
with a degree in economics. MCI Enterprises, a profitable business he
started at Harvard, was good training.
The company did clean-up work: painting, landscaping, light construction.
said bidding the lowest would land him sizable contracts. "Most of
these aren't small jobs," he told the paper. A number required him to
hire eight to 10 people for a job.
"Students always need jobs, so there's a broad labor base. There wasn't anything to lose," he said.
Corbat, a longtime executive best known for cutting toxic assets, was named
CEO Tuesday after former CEO Vikram Pandit abruptly stepped down.
has risen in the ranks quickly in his career. Corbat was a managing
director of three different parts of Salomon Bros.: emerging markets,
high yield and derivatives.
Salomon merged with Citi, then named Citicorp, in 1998. The two
became Citigroup subsequent to the merger. Salomon, renamed Salomon
Smith Barney after the merger, was abandoned by Citigroup in late 2003
after a series of financial scandals that tarnished the bank's
Early on in his tenure at Citi Corbat served in
several high-profile positions, including as head of global emerging
He later became the CEO of three different Citigroup
operations, first Citi's Global Wealth Management unit, then later Citi
Holdings, where in 2011, he oversaw the bank's divestment from more
than 40 businesses, including the initial public offering and sale of
Citi's remaining stake in Primerica.
He was in charge of Citi's
decision to retain its portfolio of retail credit cards, a boost to the
credit card industry. Citi's portfolio of credit cards includes
partnerships with Sears, Home Depot and Zale.
In January of this
year he was named Citi's CEO of Europe, the Middle East and Africa.
In that role, he oversaw all of Citi's business operations in the
region, including consumer banking, corporate and investment banking,
securities and trading and private banking services.
internal memo sent Tuesday morning Corbat told Citi employees he would
make "changes" after digging through the company's books and evaluating
He told company employees he is "both humbled by
the confidence the board has placed in me, and excited by the prospect
of working closely with our management
team and the board to take our company forward."
ago, Harvard's paper reported that as a college student Corbat was
reluctant to talk about himself for any long period of time. He brushed
aside his many accomplishments as a football player, the paper reported.
He even seemed embarrassed to expound on being recognized by NFL
There were enough to count "on the gridiron," the reporter of the piece wrote at the time.
The paper reported he was adored by women on campus and gave out free tickets to Harvard's games to dining-hall staff.
told the paper the team had good chemistry. Harvard lost out on the Ivy
title that year, but scouts still gave the undersize lineman a good
"This year everybody on the team is a leader," he told the Crimson.
His mother told the paper that "he was always outgoing and good natured as a child."
The November 1982 article was entitled "He's All-Ivy and a Perfect Team Player."
mix of warmth and strength appears to have served him well. Citi is the
nation's third-largest bank in terms of assets, according to the
He told the Crimson that hard work was the key to his success.
He said there wasn't "much glory" to it, but "you can't help a team without being self-motivated."