Mason says `few' jobs will be lost

Legg chief executive says swap of businesses with Citigroup could result in more hiring

June 25, 2005|By Rhasheema A. Sweeting | Rhasheema A. Sweeting,SUN STAFF

"Few" jobs will be lost as a result of the agreement announced yesterday between Citigroup Inc. and Legg Mason Inc., Legg Mason CEO Raymond "Chip" Mason said yesterday.

In fact, Citigroup may open an operations center in Baltimore, Mason said in an interview - though he said the final decision would be Citigroup's. A Citigroup spokeswoman declined comment.

Citigroup's consumer lending division, CitiFinancial, has a large presence in Baltimore.

The deal does not specifically address whether any jobs will be eliminated. However, Citigroup said yesterday that it would offer a "retention package" to hold onto Legg Mason's more than 1,500 brokers, who will become employees of Citi's Smith Barney unit.

There's less certainty about the futures of about 280 Legg Mason workers who provide back-office support and about 165 investment bankers and research analysts.

Mason, in the interview yesterday, speculated that the investment banking operation could be resold. He emphasized that the decision would be left to Citigroup. And it's too soon to tell what may happen to lower-level jobs that duplicate those being done in Citigroup, insiders said.

Brokers and broker's assistants don't have to worry about branch changes or job cuts, Mason said.

The future of 1,000 jobs at the Connecticut headquarters of the Citigroup asset management group, which Legg Mason is acquiring, is unclear. Citigroup spokeswoman Shannon Bell said she had no information on what will happen to the operations. The unit includes divisions once owned by companies such as Smith Barney, Harris Upham & Co., Shearson Lehman Brothers and Salomon Inc. It has about 2,600 total employees in 19 countries, including 394 investment and portfolio managers.

The companies plan to take about two years to complete their transformations and for affected employees to change companies.

"I think we will come out of this extremely well," Mason said.

But he conceded there may be a "culture clash" during the transition period.

"People have a right to be sad," said Mason, who was plainly emotional as he read a memo to employees during a teleconference yesterday morning.

"They like working here," he said of his firm's brokers. "I understand their anxieties and I wish there was something I could do about it."

The (Stamford) Advocate and Greenwich Time, both Tribune Publishing newspapers, contributed to this article.

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