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TOO CROWDED UNDER TRAVELERS' UMBRELLA?

Weill's daughter, Jessica, quits Travelers for more opportunity

Going to work for one's father can make for a complex relationship. That was certainly the case for Jessica M. Bibliowicz, who was firmly convinced it was a bad idea. ''Dad'' is none other than Sanford I. Weill, the chief executive of Travelers Group Inc. and a very tough act to follow on Wall Street. Bibliowicz spent most of her 16 years in the securities industry away from firms headed by her father. By 1994, she was running mutual-fund sales and marketing at Prudential Securities Inc. That year, she talked about joining Travelers with James Dimon, then heir apparent to run Smith Barney Inc. and all of Travelers, and Bibliowicz' friend since they were teens. Bibliowicz told Dimon about her misgivings, but he convinced her that her best opportunity was at Smith Barney, Travelers' brokerage unit. In late 1996, Bibliowicz told BUSINESS WEEK: ''Jamie is the reason I came'' to Smith Barney in 1994 as its mutual-fund marketing chief.

Certainly, there is some irony in Biblio-wicz's latest move. Stunning the mutual-fund world on June 13, the 37-year-old marketing dynamo quit due to competitive tensions between her and Dimon, say several current and former employees. She signed on with a successful but little-known New York institutional money-management firm, John A. Levin & Co. She will be president and chief operating officer, but the post significantly lowers her profile. Although Levin is a longtime friend of Weill's, Weill and Bibliowicz say she landed the job on her own.

RIFT? The question now is whether the episode will produce a rift between Weill and his protege, Dimon, 41. Some sources believe Dimon, chief executive of Smith Barney and chief operating officer of Travelers, may have seriously annoyed Weill by not retaining Biblio-wicz. After all, she is an engaging, articulate woman who is well-regarded in the mutual-fund world. Weill is proud of his daughter and a doting granddad to her two young children. ''Jess is the apple of Sandy's eye,'' says an insider. Weill admits he is disappointed. ''I loved her being here.''

Sources say that Dimon put the ambitious Bibliowicz on the slow track. ''She was frustrated about her progress,'' says one ex-employee. She was not promoted to head Smith Barney's entire $78 billion asset-management business nor was she on the firm's executive committee, both decisions Dimon would have made. Says Bibliowicz: ''I can't tell you that I don't care. I actually thought I was moving forward quickly.'' She gets credit for boosting Travelers insurance agents to sell more mutual funds, launching a new fund series, and beefing up performance. Smith Barney's more than 60 mutual funds have gone from below average in 1993, to average now, says mutual-fund researchers Morningstar Inc. Today, there are six Smith Barney mutual funds with Morningstar's top five-star rating, vs. two five-star funds in 1993.

Weill denies that Bibliowicz left due to tension with Dimon or that this has damaged his relationship with Dimon. Says Weill: ''I wouldn't expect there to be any rift because of this.'' Dimon was not available for comment, but he has said that he is still friends with Bibliowicz. Says Bibliowicz: ''I don't hold him at fault.''

She is now looking forward to building a small firm into a bigger firm. ''This new job is a great opportunity for me,'' she says. She's better off with her father--and Dimon--on the sidelines.

By Leah Nathans Spiro in New York


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Updated June 23, 1997 by bwwebmaster
Copyright 1997, Bloomberg L.P.
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