Weill eyeing $5bn private equity venture

As speculation swirls around the future of Citigroup chairman Sanford Weill, new reports suggest a possible private equity venture with Prince Alwaleed of Saudi Arabia.

Citigroup chairman Sanford Weill and Saudi prince Alwaleed bin Talal, one of the world’s richest men, are planning to raise a $5 billion (€4.2 billion) private equity fund, according to news reports.

It was reported on cable television station CNBC Monday that Weill, who is under contract at Citigroup until April 2006, planned to step down early to begin the new venture. Citigroup responded to the rumours with a statement that he was not, in fact, leaving the firm.

The channel also reported that Alwaleed, one of the world’s richest men and Citigroup’s largest individual investor, planned to invest in the LBO fund started by Weill. This was followed by a report in The Wall Street Journal that Weill wants to leave the banking giant, but was blocked by Citigroup’s board.

Weill was the chief executive of Citigroup until he became chairman in 2003. He was replaced with current chief executive Charles Prince.

Alwaleed is worth an estimated $24 billion. He recently entered into a joint-venture with HSBC Holdings to invest $400 million in sub-Saharan Africa. Until recently, his hotel assets included the Plaza Hotel in New York City.