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John Mack announced plans to step down as Morgan Stanley's CEO at the end of the year. He'll won't be departing the bank entirely: Mack will become Morgan's chairman on January 1, and the chief executive role will be handed over to James Gorman, the former McKinsey consultant and Merrill Lynch exec who joined Morgan Stanley four years ago and now heads up the firm's brokerage business. Mack has been making plans to retire long before the financial crisis battered the bank. But the events of the past year certainly played a role in the change in power, and what sort of legacy Mack will leave behind remains an open question.

Reports the Times:

Mr. Mack presided over an era of unprecedented profits—and then record losses. Only a year ago, Morgan Stanley nearly foundered like Lehman Brothers. It was saved, like so much of Wall Street, by a multibillion-dollar bailout and other government aid.

Wall Street has rendered a harsh judgment on Mr. Mack's stewardship. On his watch, Morgan Stanley's share price lost nearly a third of its value, while the stock of its archrival, Goldman Sachs, has gained. After skating so close to the edge, Mr. Mack retreated from the high-risk businesses that almost cost him his bank. To many, Morgan Stanley seemed to lose its old swagger.

Mack's decision to step down wasn't welcomed by many of the bank's board members; several reportedly urged him to consider staying on. But the last year had taken its toll on Mack, it seems, and he was ready to get off the hot seat. And he'll ultimately leave Morgan Stanley in a reasonably dignified fashion, which is something that probably won't be said when Citigroup's CEO, former Morgan Stanley exec Vikram Pandit, finally decides to step down. (Or Citigroup's board finally wakes up and realizes its needs new leadership.)

Then again, who knows? Maybe, as Bloomberg reports today, Pandit really is the "Marty McFly of banking"! Maybe he'll manage to undo his disastrous tenure as CEO by turning Citigroup into the "bank of the future"! Maybe hiring someone the person responsible for the airline reservations site Travelocity will help it "reinvent itself"!

Or, you know, maybe not.

Morgan Stanley Announces New Chief [NYT]
Morgan Stanley Taps New Boss [WSJ]
Citi Said to Eye ‘Bank of the Future' With Ex-Travelocity Chief [BN]