Charles Owen Prince III was born in Lynwood, California to Charles Owen Prince II, a plasterer, and Mary Doyle, a housewife. Prince went to the University of Southern California where he earned a Bachelor's degree, Master's degree, and Juris Doctor. He later received a Master of Laws degree from Georgetown University Law Center.
Prince began his career as an attorney with U.S. Steel Corp. He then joined the Commercial Credit Company, a predecessor to Citigroup, and was promoted to Executive Vice President of the firm, which later became known as the Travelers Group. Following the merger of the Travelers Group and Citigroup, Prince was named chief administrative officer of the combined company. He later became chairman and chief executive officer of Citigroup.