NEW YORK -- After spending his career acquiring one company after another to build the biggest bank in America, Sanford ``Sandy" Weill has no intention of taking it easy in retirement.
Weill, who stepped down as chairman of Citigroup Inc. in April, has just completed his first retirement project, with the publication this week of an autobiography titled, ``The Real Deal -- My Life in Business and Philanthropy."
Weill, who is 73, wrote the book to share some of what he learned in five decades in the investment and banking businesses, he said in an interview in his office on Fifth Avenue with a panoramic view of Central Park.
``I have been lucky enough to have an extraordinary career so far, and I felt there were a lot of lessons people could get from my experience that could be valuable," Weill said.
Among the most important, he said, were learning from mistakes and finding ways to get spouses involved in company activities to secure their support.
Next up will be expanding on charitable work that already has him chairing the boards of three major nonprofits: the National Academy Foundation, which he helped found 20 years ago to encourage urban schoolchildren to consider business careers; the Weill Medical College of Cornell University; and New York City's Carnegie Hall.
It is causes like these, Weill said, that made it easier for him to leave the high-powered business world, although he continues to be a consultant for Citigroup.
That life was about making money, he said. ``Now, my wife and I want to figure out how to give it away."
The book, which Weill wrote with former Merrill Lynch analyst Judah S. Kraushaar, makes it clear that Weill credits a great deal of his success to Joan Weill, his wife of 51 years.
Weill dedicates the 528-page book to her. She has her own chapter to give her views of their life together.
In the early years of their marriage, he said, he was earning so little as a runner at a brokerage firm that they had to cover the rent out of her paycheck as a part-time elementary school teacher. ``I still owe her, I think," Weill said.
For her part, Joan Weill acknowledges that it was difficult at times being married to a corporate chieftain, including his long hours away from home while she was mothering their two children, Marc, born in 1956, and Jessica, born in 1959.
That said, she appreciated the opportunity to participate in his career. ``Sandy shared what was going on with business, always," she said. ``This is something that was helpful to our relationship."
In the interview, Weill spoke about the lessons he learned, such as the importance of not giving up when things didn't go right.
``There were lots of things that didn't work out right," he said. ``I'd put it aside and think about the next opportunity. . . . I didn't spend a lot of time worrying about the past."
He gave two examples of when this strategy paid off.
In 1978, when he was at Shearson, Hayden, Stone, Weill was close to buying investment bank Kuhn, Loeb & Co. But the story leaked, and the deal fell through. Kuhn, Loeb later merged with Lehman Brothers. A year later, Weill said, his firm was able to buy another, bigger bank, Loeb, Rhoades, Hornblower & Co.
``I wouldn't have been able to do the second if I had done the first," he said.
A similar thing happened in the 1990s. In 1997, he said, he talked to J.P. Morgan about a merger, ``but that didn't happen." The next year, he merged his company with Citicorp and had most of the ingredients of what became Citigroup, a financial services behemoth with more than $1.6 trillion in assets.
Regrets, he had a few. One was a disastrous interlude at American Express. He sold Shearson to the big travel services and credit card company in 1981 and became president in 1983. But he couldn't stand being the number two and resigned in June 1985.
A high point of his career, he said, was buying Shearson back in 1993, with everyone feeling ``happy to be coming home." Shearson is now part of the Smith Barney unit of Citigroup.