By Patricia Sellers
June 20, 2008

Who will head Hearst following CEO Victor Ganzi’s sudden departure? Read my colleague Richard Siklos’ smart take on the drama there. I had lunch on Monday with one contender: Hearst Magazines President Cathie Black – and even then, she had no clue that her boss was going to quit. In fact, Cathie told me on Monday that she was heading to India for an IBM

board meeting this Thursday – yes, that would be today. Needless to say, she canceled her trip – which would have been her first visit to India ever. Today, she sent me an e-mail, explaining that when when major change hits, it’s best to stick around for lots of reasons, “including just being seen and to reassure the team that focusing on the business at hand is the first priority.” It’s a strange coincidence that on Monday, Cathie shared her best advice on stepping into a new job. Given her prowess running a $2.5 billion piece of Hearst, she could be doing that herself soon. But her age, 64, works against her in this succession contest.

Meanwhile, over at Citigroup

with Zoe Cruz in the Phil Purcell era? And Robert Pruzan, former president of Wasserstein-Perella and CEO of Dresdner Kleinwort North America? And Blair Effron, ex-group vice chairman of UBS

? They’ve all moved to Centerview, where Jim Kilts, the former Gillette CEO who sold that company to Procter & Gamble

, is now running the firm’s private equity arm. “The next couple of years are going to be rough on the street,” Lis told me Thursday. “Private equity, M&A advisory, and hedge funds are attracting the best and the smartest.” Maybe self-serving to say it – but true.

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