faces a shallow pool of candidates as it embarks on a search to replace ousted CEO Ken Thompson.
A month after Thompson was
, Wachovia went one further and asked him
on Monday. Wachovia Chairman Lanty Smith, who was named interim CEO, will lead the search. No clear favorite is readily apparent.
One possible Thompson successor, according to Robert Patten, a managing director and senior bank analyst at Morgan Keegan, includes Al de Molina, the former CFO of
Bank of America
"He is the only name that has star quality," Patten says, referring to names that have been associated with Wachovia.
But an investor who speaks daily to bank CEOs says de Molina is not a realistic option. "He's viewed as a joker in Charlotte, and he's from BofA -- the evil empire," the executive wrote in an email to
. The executive thinks Jerry Grundhofer, former chairman and CEO of
is a possibility.
They Just Don't Get Wachovia!
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Richard Bove, an analyst at Ladenburg Thalmann, told
that Ben Jenkins, Wachovia's head of retail banking operations who was named interim chief operating officer Monday, might also make a logical candidate.
The remaining candidates are retired banking CEOs or candidates who came up short in the
CEO derby, which was hardly viewed as a race of thoroughbreds. Of course, the Citi job was viewed as an extremely challenging one -- straightening out Wachovia is a comparative piece of cake: ride out the credit crisis and sell it to the highest bidder. Maybe
CEO Jamie Dimon will take a crack if the bank has digested
Some observers believe John Kanas, former CEO and chairman of
North Fork Bancorp
, might be looking to get back in the game. Kanas sold his bank to
Capital One Financial
in late 2006.
reported that Michael Neal, head of
commercial finance unit, was a finalist for Citigroup's top job, as was Robert Willumstad, chairman of
American International Group
Other dark horses include Manuel Medina-Mora, regional head of Latin America for Citigroup. Latin America has been a rare success story for Citigroup following its acquisition of Banamex in 2001. Ned Kelly, who runs Citi's alternative investments unit and was CEO of Mercantile Bankshares before selling it to
last year, also is a possibility.
None of the abovementioned executives could be reached Monday.
Smith, in a company statement Monday, said the search committee will move "as expeditiously as appropriate," and would consider both inside and outside candidates. The committee includes two former CEOs -- Robert Ingram of drug company
and Mackey McDonald of clothing manufacturer
-- and Joseph Neubauer, a Wachovia board member and chief of food-service concern
Staff writer Laurie Kulikowski contributed to this report.