updated 7/15/2005 8:11:51 AM ET 2005-07-15T12:11:51

Citigroup Inc.'s president and chief operating officer, Robert B. Willumstad, has decided to step down from those positions to seek the top job at a public company, the financial services giant announced Thursday.

Citigroup said Willumstad, 59, intends to work with management to assure an orderly transition of his responsibilities between now and September.

Willumstad has been president since 2002. He was given the COO title as well in 2003 as a consolation prize when he was passed over for the chief executive position, which went to Charles Prince. Prince, 55, took over from Sanford "Sandy" Weill, who gave up the CEO title but remained chairman of the New York-based bank.

Willumstad also will leave Citigroup's board of directors, the statement said.

Citigroup said it would not fill the positions Willumstad was vacating.

The announcement was made after the closing of regular trading. On Thursday, Citigroup shares rose 76 cents, or more than 1.6 percent, to $46.50 on the New York Stock Exchange.

Willumstad, in the statement, said he was seeking a position as CEO of a public company.

"While I will miss my close collaboration with the senior management at Citigroup, I am looking forward, at this point in my career, to having an opportunity to realize this longtime, personal goal," he said.

Prince said he admired Willumstad as a friend and a manager.

"This admiration has only deepened over the last two years as we have partnered to lead this company," Prince said. "While I greatly value our close working relationship, I respect and understand his decision to leave to pursue opportunities to run a public company."

From 2000 to 2003, Willumstad headed Citigroup's global consumer businesses, which includes the credit card, consumer finance and retail banking operations. Under his direction, revenue at the group grew from $28 billion to $41 billion while net income rose 23 percent per year, Citigroup said.

"During this time, the consumer business acquired, and successfully integrated, a number of businesses in the United States and across the world, including Banamex in Mexico and Koram in South Korea," the Citigroup statement said.

Starting in 2003, Willumstad worked with Prince on a number of transactions, including the acquisition of First American Bank and the sale of Travelers Life & Annuity to MetLife Inc.

Copyright 2005 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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