Citigroup Vice Chairman Ray McGuire — a mainstay in elite Wall Street investment banking circles for the past three decades — is poised to declare his candidacy for mayor of New York City in 2021, with a formal announcement coming as early as this week, FOX Business has learned.
If McGuire does decide to run, he will likely run as a Democrat in a city dominated by progressive politicians such as current Mayor Bill de Blasio, who is leaving office because of term limits. But McGuire is likely to campaign as a moderate, particularly on fiscal issues, and will attempt to reconfigure the socially liberal but pro-business coalition that propelled another wealthy Wall Streeter, Michael Bloomberg, to mayor.
McGuire could ultimately decide against entering a political battle that would force him to leave his cushy, high-paying job at Citigroup for the cauldron of New York City politics. Still, people close to him say he has indicated he's highly likely to enter the race, having spent a significant amount of time discussing the matter with potential donors and advisers during the city’s coronavirus lockdown over the summer.
If he does go for it, McGuire is said to have the blessing and support of key members of the Bloomberg team, if not the former mayor himself, people close to the matter told FOX Business.
Joel Klein, New York City schools chancellor under Bloomberg, is advising McGuire, as is Klein’s wife, prominent attorney Nicole Seligman, according to New York City Democratic Party consultants.
Klein also served as lead prosecutor in the Justice Department's antitrust case against Microsoft under President Clinton. He is a former executive vice president for News Corp.
Seligman is the former general counsel and executive vice president of Sony Corporation and represented President Clinton during impeachment proceedings.
McGuire also serves on Citi's board of directors with Bloomberg’s partner, Diana Taylor, and is close to others who worked for the former mayor. It’s unclear if Taylor will play a role in his campaign, consultants say.
A spokesman for Bloomberg told FOX Business the mayor isn't making any immediate endorsements. Taylor could not be reached for comment. McGuire didn't return calls and text messages for comment; a Citigroup spokeswoman declined comment. Klein did not respond to a request for comment. Seligman could not be reached for comment.
In recent weeks, McGuire has taken significant steps indicating his plans to run — retaining advance teams and hiring security, according to people with direct knowledge. His candidacy would come as the city faces its most severe fiscal crisis since the 1970s, when the Big Apple nearly fell into bankruptcy amid years of mounting debt, high crime and the disappearance of its middle class.
McGuire, 63, has been a Wall Street banker for 36 years and his financial acumen as the city struggles with pandemic-induced fiscal strife — which includes many of the ills that nearly sank it in the 1970s — could be a selling point for his candidacy. He is among the top financial executives in the country and during his long career, he has done business with some of the biggest companies in America, including Conoco Phillips and Time Warner.
Prior to joining Citi, McGuire held roles at Morgan Stanley and Merrill Lynch.
But his storied career may be a strike against him in a progressive city like New York, and his work in the financial sector will face enormous scrutiny.
Citi’s implosion in 2008 was widely regarded as among the root causes of the financial crisis, though McGuire was not in charge of the unit of the bank that dealt in risky, mortgage-related investments leading to its near insolvency and multiple government bailouts.
Citigroup, meanwhile, also had close ties to Saudi Arabia’s government in business and even on its board, which could prove problematic according to some Democratic strategists.
“Ray McGguire doesn’t know anything about running the city. It’s not a bank and his connection to the Saudis is problematic," political strategist Hank Sheinkopf said. "What makes people with money think they can get elected just because they have money?”
It remains unclear whether McGuire will take a leave of absence from Citi or would continue working there if he follows through with the bid.
While his big business ties may put him at odds with the more liberal wing of the party, McGuire has recently sought to burnish his progressive credentials.
An African-American, he shared his own experiences being discriminated against on a Zoom call with the Economic Club of New York in June and discussed how he could “easily be George Floyd,” referencing the controversial Minneapolis arrest that resulted in Floyd’s death.
He also recently co-authored a Citi report which posited that racial discrimination has cost the nation $16 trillion.