Ray McGuire has spent more than 15 years at Citigroup © Patrick T. Fallon/Bloomberg

Ray McGuire, a longtime Citigroup executive and one of Wall Street’s most prominent black bankers, will leave the bank to join a crowded field vying to become New York City’s next mayor.

Mr McGuire announced his plans on CNBC on Thursday morning, saying: “We’re in a war for the survival of this great city. Without a doubt, we can do this.”

Several candidates have already entered the mayoral race, which is expected to begin in earnest after the November 3 presidential election.

As Mr McGuire’s remarks attest, whoever prevails will assume the enormous task of lifting the city from one of its worst crises in recent memory. The coronavirus emergency has opened a $9bn fiscal deficit for this fiscal year while wiping out more than half a million jobs in the city and devastating businesses.

A migration to the suburbs and the rapid adoption of work-from-home technology has cast an existential question over the city’s ecosystem of corporate offices.

Meanwhile, New York City — like others across the country — is experiencing a rise in violent crime and undergoing a painful reckoning about race and policing.

Mr McGuire, a Citi vice-chair, holds out the rare promise of being able to appeal to minority voters as well as an anxious business community that has come to loathe the current mayor, Bill de Blasio, whose second term ends next year.

Mr McGuire has spent more than 15 years at Citigroup — 13 as head of corporate and investment banking, making him one of the most visible black bankers pitching Wall Street’s wares to corporations and institutions. Among other assignments, he advised Time Warner on its $80bn merger with AT&T, and represented Wyeth during its $68bn sale to Pfizer.

A towering figure, he is well liked by colleagues on both sides of the Atlantic. In an internal memo announcing his departure, Mike Corbat, Citi chief executive, and Paco Ybarra, investment banking boss, called Mr McGuire a “powerful and path-breaking voice for the industry on diversity and inclusion”.

However, Mr McGuire has limited name recognition outside Wall Street and will be vying for the nomination of a Democratic party that has shifted left in recent years.

In the preface to a recent Citi report on racial inequality, Mr McGuire invoked his own experience. He wrote that even with his lofty credentials he was “still seen first as a six-foot-four, 200-pound black man wherever I go — even in my own neighbourhood. I could have been George Floyd.” 

Valerie Jarrett, a longtime adviser to Barack Obama, will serve as co-chair of the campaign, according to CNBC.

One Democratic consultant said it was too soon to tell how Mr McGuire would fare as a candidate: “The idea of Ray is great — the reality is yet to be seen.”

New York’s business leaders have been casting about for months for an executive in the pragmatist mould of Michael Bloomberg, the former mayor, to revive the city’s fortunes. In private, several have despaired about the possibility that voters might opt for another leftwing candidate along the lines of Mr de Blasio or Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, who represents parts of Queens and the Bronx in the US House of Representatives.

In an earnings call with investors earlier this year, Anthony Malkin, chairman and chief executive of Empire State Realty, cited Mr McGuire as the sort of sensible figure the city’s real estate industry desperately needed in City Hall. 

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“The real estate industry has been a whipping post for the current administration. And I think that — look, I’m encouraged to think that Ray McGuire . . . may be running for mayor,” Mr Malkin said.

This month, Maya Wiley, a former legal adviser to Mr de Blasio, threw her cap into the ring — but made a point of not mentioning her former boss. Other candidates include Eric Adams, the Brooklyn borough president, and Scott Stringer, the city comptroller.

Additional reporting by Andrew Edgecliffe-Johnson in New York

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