If you read the Times story about management changes at Citigroup today, you would have come away thinking that chief financial officer Ned Kelly had been demoted. No, not this Ned Kelly; they didn’t hang the guy, they just moved him to an advisory position — the dreaded “vice-chairman” — from the plum role of chief financial officer, and a “much less prominent role,” according to Eric Dash. To be fair, it seemed Kelly asked for the demotion and even tried to resign (internal communications quoted by the paper have him admitting he had become a “hindrance to the company” in the wake of a dispute with Sheila Bair), but was reportedly begged by Citigroup CEO Vikram Pandit to stay. But either way, it was clear Kelly had been kicked way upstairs, and wouldn’t really be advising Pandit on anything except maybe how to keep his job.
The Post, however, had a different take: “KELLY’S KILLING AT CITI!” screeched their headline.
The ensuing article went on to gush about how Kelly is a “rising star” who has “earned kudos for his calm and reasonable management style.” This was no comedown, Kaja Whitehouse wrote; Kelly has been “catapulted … to second-in-command behind Pandit.”
The move marks the fourth time Kelly has been promoted since arriving at Citi a little more than a year ago, and comes amid high praise both on Wall Street and in Washington for his work trying to fix the hobbled bank.
Wait, what? Which is it? Is Ned moving up or down? Despite Citigroup itself sometimes seeming to defy the immutable physical laws of the universe, it can’t possibly be both. And it’s not.
Of the few things the Post does really well, New York City business is among them, but we have to point out that they really whiffed on this one. Even their stablemates at the Journal are in line with the Times, noting in their story that “some regulators have questioned [Kelly’s] qualifications to hold the top finance position.”
Sorry, Kaja. Better luck next time. Better luck than Ned Kelly, that is. Both of them.