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Fatal Attraction in the Boardroom: TV Journalist Gets Too Close to Citi Source


And a former CEO takes a new liking to the news.

When Joey Ramone records a song about you, it must be easy to view yourself as exempt from the same rules that apply to everyone else.

(GE) "Money Honey", immortalized by the late Ramone in "Maria Bartiromo" on Don't Worry About Me (his final album before succumbing to lymphoma in 2001), worked her way up from assistant cashier at a Sheepshead Bay, Brooklyn OTB parlor to an on-air position at the number one financial television network, beginning in 1993.

Bartiromo, who is married to Jonathan Steinberg, son of financier Saul Steinberg, not only had the eye of rock legends, but Wall Street players, as well -- one Todd Thomson, in particular, former CEO of Citigroup's (C) Global Wealth Management division.

While an affair was never officially confirmed, as the Magic 8-Ball might have said, "All Sign Point to Yes".

  • In 2006, Thomson, who was also married, flew Bartiromo to Asia on the Citigroup jet, after which he bumped other Citigroup executives from the return flight in order to fly back alone with her

  • Thomson bankrolled Citigroup functions featuring Bartiromo

  • Thomson used $5 million of his marketing budget to sponsor a TV show on the Sundance Channel hosted by Bartiromo

  • Thomson appointed Maria Bartiromo to the Wharton Business School Leadership Advisory Board

Michael Lewis, author of the seminal book Liar's Poker, pointed out on that Thomson was likely still living the bygone, heady "glory days of the Wall Street alpha male."

He imagined what might have been running through Thomson's mind:

"Look at me: I'm huge! Because I'm huge I have special needs. Because I make this place hundreds of millions a year, I can do whatever the hell I want. Technically, Prince may be my boss but I don't really have a boss, because without me he's not just short and tubby but toast. I make the money. The petty rules are for the people who don't make the money."

Lewis continued:

"The man's impulses were still designed for an age when, if you were a big enough hitter at a big Wall Street firm and you were caught in what appeared to be a dalliance with a prominent female journalist you got not a pink slip but a standing ovation. Even if you had used the corporate jet to pull it off."

His conclusion:

"That time has passed. Mess around on company time, using company assets, with a high-profile woman who isn't your wife and it doesn't matter how much money you make for the firm: You're fired."

Thomson was stripped of his position at Citigroup on January 22, 2007. The firm issued a press release announcing Thomson's resignation, in which the man himself trotted out the tired old saw about "looking forward to exploring new challenges." A Citigroup spokesman added that Thomson "left to pursue other interests."

Might those "new challenges" and "other interests" have been, say, other anchors like Erin Burnett? Becky Quick? Fox (NWS) Business Channel's Jenna Lee?

Doesn't matter. Thomson can finally behave any way he wants. In his current position as founder and CEO of Headwaters Capital LLC, a private equity investing firm specializing in financial services and alternative energy, the only boss he has to answer to is himself.

And, in the annals of business history, there is yet to be a chief executive who fired himself.

For more of these stories, click through to our lander page: Fatal Attraction in the Boardroom.

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