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My Son, Vikram Pandit

December 18, 2007

Vikram Pandit resigned as Citigroup's chief executive on October 16 a day after the America's third-largest bank announced stronger-than-expected earnings.

Following is an interview of Vikram's father, Shankar B Pandit, taken in 2007 soon after Pandit junior was appointed the CEO of Citigroup.

Baba, Vikram has become the CEO of Citigroup.'

Those were the words that jolted Shankar B Pandit, 85, out of his pre-dawn sleep last Wednesday in Mumbai, a world away from Citigroup's commanding glass and steel New York corporate headquarters on Park Avenue.

The father of Vikram Pandit, Citigroup's recently appointed Chief Executive Officer, lives in a modest flat in a Navi Mumbai apartment building, outside Mumbai, three months of the year.

The other nine months Mr Pandit lives with "my Vikram" in his 10-room flat facing New York's Central Park on the Upper West Side, in the palatial Beresford building (formerly comedian Tony Randall's home, purchased for $17.9 million; it apparently has its own private elevator. Comedian Jerry Seinfeld also lives in the same building).

When Mr Pandit boarded a plane for India some weeks ago he was aware that there was a chance his son may be chosen for Citigroup's top job.

What he was not prepared for was the army of media people who would arrive at his doorstep in his peaceful locality the moment Vikram's appointment made headlines across the world.

Since last Wednesday morning Mr Pandit has been tackling a stream of cameramen from local and international television channels, journalists and well-wishers.

At his side supporting him has been his three elderly brothers Manohar Pandit, Vyankatesh Pandit and Ramesh Pandit and their wives (Vikram Pandit's mother Shailaja died a year ago) helping celebrate this so very important family moment and receiving guests and friends, warmly popping in sweets in the mouths of all who come.

Mr Pandit spoke to Managing Editor (Features) Vaihayasi P Daniel about his son Vikram, and what this historic event means to him. He is very proud of his son -- "I have collected one kilo of clippings on him" -- but like his son (who is admired for his soft-spoken, radically low-profile image; Vikram once told New York magazine that he had not gotten into the 'Gordon Gecko idea of Wall Street) he does not brag.

Before Vikram joined Citigroup he worked at Morgan Stanley and made his way to nearly the top rung of the company ladder over 22 years before leaving to start a successful hedge fund, Old Lane LP, in 2006. When Citigroup bought Old Lane for $800 million, Vikram was absorbed into the senior echelons of the banking conglomerate.

Did you feel your son had a good chance of being appointed the CEO of Citigroup?

His name has been on the short list. In my mind I was very hopeful and confident that he would be the one taken. He said, 'Baba, woh ho gaya (It has happened)'. I said that's very good. You see we don't have those formalities in our family for saying, 'thank you' or 'oh glad!' and 'hi' and all that. We have non-verbal communication. We understand each other very well. That much was enough between him and me. I don't have to say I am so excited. That's not the way we do it.

I spoke to Vikram last night. He said, 'Don't give over-exposure (to the press). Don't entertain all these people who come and bother you. Take rest. Yesterday from six in the morning up to 12 you were busy with them. Are they coming today?' I said, 'No one is coming today'. But unfortunately it has not come true.

Photographs and videos: N V Reuben. Photograph: From left to right: Sumedha Ramesh Pandit, Dr Ramesh Pandit, Shankar B Pandit, Vyankatesh Pandit, Sumati Vyankatesh Pandit.
Also read: Vikram Pandit becomes the CEO

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