NEW YORK -- It was supposed to be Citigroup's annual meeting and, indeed, the shareholders reelected the board of directors and voted on resolutions.
But the gathering yesterday at Carnegie Hall was really about saying goodbye to Sanford I. Weill, who ran his last meeting as chairman of the company he built over the last 20 years into the largest financial institution in America.
Shareholders gave Weill two standing ovations in the gilded concert hall, where the balcony was decked out with a blue banner with a message from his more than 300,000 employees that read simply, ''Thank you, Sandy!"
At times fighting back tears, Weill, 73, said that it was hard to leave the bank because ''the people in Citigroup are really our best friends . . . [who] worked together, had a common vision, built something together."
Still, Weill won't be going far away from Citigroup Inc., which is headquartered in New York. The board has given him the title chairman emeritus, and he will serve as an adviser to his successor, chairman and chief executive Charles Prince, for the next decade.
Although Weill's departure from the board was central to the company's annual meeting, there were also comments critical of Citigroup under Weill.
Louis Malizia, assistant director of capital strategies for the Teamsters Union, complained about practices that resulted in Citigroup's private bank being forced to close in Japan. Matthew Lee, executive director of the Inner City Press-Fair Finance Watch, a consumer advocacy group, criticized lending practices that resulted in higher mortgage rates for African-Americans and other minority group members.