How's it that Dick Parsons, the new chairman of Citigroup, is only 60? For something near my whole adult life in New York, Parsons has seemed to come out of retirement to do the job nobody else seems willing to do. He's been the fallback guy so many times, been the path of least resistance, been the choice when all other choices fail, been the solution when nothing will succeed, that it's time to coin a category. Dick Parsons is a Zelig variation.
He's a public undertaker of sorts in business, or an affable grief counselor.
You don't bring Dick Parsons in when you expect a turn-around or a rebirth or a new idea, you bring Dick Parsons in because he doesn't make you feel worse about the fix you're in.
Twenty years ago, at the age of 40, already avuncular if not grandfatherly, a black Republican at the Reagan White House, he was brought in to head the Dime Savings Bank in New York during the savings bank crisis (remember that?). The Dime has long since ceased to exist, but Parsons emerged as a study in affability and flexibility and compatibility.
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