Citigroup's Chairman Richard Parsons told the board that he will split his time between Citigroup (C) and Providence Equity Partners, a private equity firm. Is this the right time to be changing his focus just as Citi tries to climb out of its deep hole?
Citi is not ready for prime time if it's still raising funds using the FDIC's bond guarantee facility. Why would Parsons shift his focus just when Citi is in negotiations with the government to start weaning itself from its help?
It seems that Parsons is more interested in satisfying his own need to be part of the media industry rather than the needs of Citigroup and its investors. Parsons was the former chief executive of Time Warner and is a close friend of Providence's founder Jonathan Nelson.
Providence owns media companies like Metro Goldwyn Meyer, Hulu and Univision. Its investment success has been mixed. It has money makers such as Hulu and the Education Management Corporation while its investment in MGM appears to be underwater. Some analysts have raised questions regarding whether Univision can be successfully turned around.
Citigroup has been a lender in previous Providence deals, so Parsons will have to recuse himself when Providence issues come to the board at Citigroup. Parsons currently had no role in making loans or renegotiating the terms of previous loans.
Parsons retired from Time Warner's board earlier this year and obviously wants back into the media deal making world. He is expected to serve as an adviser to Providence's management team on future deals, as well as managing portfolio companies. He is not expected to make deals himself, but will likely be called upon to help in negotiations.
Lita Epstein has written more than 25 books, including Trading for Dummies.
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