High-Flying Citigroup Grounds Plans for $50M Jet

Decision comes after a phone call from Obama administration.

ByABC News
January 27, 2009, 9:04 AM

Jan. 27, 2009 — -- The high-flying execs at Citigroup caved under pressure from President Obama and decided today to abandon plans for a luxurious new $50 million corporate jet from France.

The decision came 24 hours after the banking giant, which was rescued by a $45 billion taxpayer lifeline, defended buying the state-of-the-art Dassault Falcon 7X -- one of nine to be flying in U.S. skies -- as a smart business deal.

The jet, the epitome of corporate prestige and privilege, can carry 12 passengers in elegant comfort.

ABC News has learned that on Monday officials of the Obama administration called Citigroup about the company's new $50 million corporate jet and told execs to "fix it."

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Earlier on Monday, White House spokesman Robert Gibbs said made it clear ABC News asked him about the jet that the president disapproved of the deal.

"The president said this during the transition, as it related to the auto companies using private jets: [He] doesn't believe that's the best use of money at this point," Gibbs said.

The company today issued a statement saying, "We have no intent to take delivery of any new aircraft."

Citigroup had argued it was selling two of its four other planes to pay for this one, that the new jet would be more efficient and, besides, it had already signed a contract for the jet. Breaking that deal would cost the bank millions in penalties.

The Citigroup air fleet will now shrink from four jets and a helicopter to two planes.

Citigroup was apparently not deterred from shopping for a new jet despite the outrage that erupted when Detroit's auto barons used private jets to fly into Washington to plead for handouts. The giant carmakers later got rid of their jets after being granted a $17 billion financial lifeline in taxpayer cash.

And this week, ousted Merrill Lynch CEO John Thain said he would personally cough up the $1 million he spent on remodeling his office after his brokerage was rescued with billions in taxpayer cash.