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MasterCard: Change at the Top on Tap

"The announcement of Ajay Banga was the first step in a succession plan," Smith says in an email Tuesday. "While the company doesn't say that Mr. Banga will get the top spot for sure, they haven't suggested that it is unreasonable to think it will occur."

MasterCard shares have risen 39% this year, while rival Visa's (V - Get Report) shares have risen 28%, a hefty feat considering that most other financial stocks have fallen this year.

Robert Dodd, an analyst at Morgan Keegan, does not read too much into Selander's move.

"I don't think this is necessarily any indication that a transition is in anyway imminent in the next year or so," he says. " The plans have become very much kind of the norm of how to basically realize a little cash from your stock holdings. They're certainly not unusual for anyone at this stage."

MasterCard said in an official statement that the new 10b5-1 contract is a "personal investment decision" on the behalf of Selander and "likely a decision Mr. Selander's part to diversify his holdings" in MasterCard, "where he has obviously accumulated a significant percentage of his personal holdings" in the company, according to an e-mailed response.

Selander will be subject to the company's executive stock ownership guidelines until he reaches age 62, "whereby he is encouraged to hold at least six times his base salary in stock," the filing on Friday says.

Selander began at MasterCard in 1994, after working for more than 20 years at Citi. Last year, the longtime chief executive made $11.2 million, primarily from the awarding of restricted stock and stock options. Selander's salary was $983,333 in 2008.

-- Written by Laurie Kulikowski in New York.

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