Bank of America's next chief could be based in the Big Apple

Still reeling from jobs losses following Wells Fargo & Co.'s (WFC) purchase last year of ailing banking giant Wachovia, the city of Charlotte, N.C., could lose at least one other high-profile banker's job -- the chief executive's post at Bank of America Corp. (BAC). Having difficulty finding a replacement for embroiled CEO Kenneth Lewis, who will resign at the end of the year, BofA's board is broadening its candidate search by looking north -- to the Big Apple -- where the new CEO could be based.

BofA's board is concerned the pool of talent willing to move to the Southern city is too shallow, Bloomberg News reported, citing anonymous sources. Moving the search north is also acknowledgment that BofA's biggest units are no longer based in Charlotte, the news agency said, referring to the bank's hasty purchase last year of New York City-based investment bank Merrill Lynch & Co.

The search for a new CEO is made especially difficult due to government oversight of executive pay at BofA, one of seven financial-services companies that received bailout money under the federal government's Troubled Asset Relief Program. Unable to offer its new candidate a big paycheck, BofA's board has been stripped of one of its key recruiting tools.

The government's "pay czar," Kenneth Feinberg, oversees executive compensation at firms receiving TARP funds. He drew big headlines last month when he announced that average salaries for the top 25 executives at the seven companies were being cut 90 percent starting this month. Feinberg also asked BofA's Lewis to give up his 2009 salary, the Charlotte Observer reported.

New Board Members Are from All Over

In addition to the departure of Lewis, who has said BofA's headquarters would remain in Charlotte under his watch, five board members with ties to Charlotte have stepped down in the past two years, and none of their replacements lives in the city, Bloomberg said. Lewis remains the board's only current North Carolina resident. The new members are from Ohio, Delaware, Virginia, New York, Alabama and Texas.

Leading internal candidates for the top spot include Chief Risk Officer Gregory Curl, 61, who lives in Charlotte, and consumer-banking chief Brian Moynihan, 50, a Boston resident, Bloomberg said.

Analysts say moving the search beyond the pool of talent available in Charlotte is a wise move, especially given Merrill Lynch's heft, bringing in fully half of BofA's revenue through Sept. 30. With the investment-banking arm being such a large part of the business, Arnold Danielson, chairman of investment-banking firm Danielson & Associates told Bloomberg, "the CEO probably ought to be in New York."

BofA's other units include the former Countrywide Financial Corp., which the bank bought in 2008. It's based in Calabasas, Calif., and provides the parent company with 14 percent of revenues, Bloomberg said. BofA's credit-card services unit makes up 23 percent of revenue and is based in Wilmington.

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