Wachovia Faces Thin Pool for CEO Search

The bank pledges to look both inside and outside the company to replace the ousted Ken Thompson.
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Wachovia

(WB) - Get Report

faces a shallow pool of candidates as it embarks on a search to replace ousted CEO Ken Thompson.

A month after Thompson was

stripped of the chairman title

, Wachovia went one further and asked him

to resign

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

(BAC) - Get Report

.

"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

TheStreet.com

. The executive thinks Jerry Grundhofer, former chairman and CEO of

US Bancorp

(USB) - Get Report

is a possibility.

They Just Don't Get Wachovia!

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Richard Bove, an analyst at Ladenburg Thalmann, told

Bloomberg Television

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

Citigroup

(C) - Get Report

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

JPMorgan Chase

(JPM) - Get Report

CEO Jamie Dimon will take a crack if the bank has digested

Bear Stearns

by then.

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

(COF) - Get Report

in late 2006.

Fortune

reported that Michael Neal, head of

General Electric's

(GE) - Get Report

commercial finance unit, was a finalist for Citigroup's top job, as was Robert Willumstad, chairman of

American International Group

(AIG) - Get Report

.

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

PNC Financial

(PNC) - Get Report

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

Glaxo Wellcome

and Mackey McDonald of clothing manufacturer

VF Corp.

(VFC) - Get Report

-- and Joseph Neubauer, a Wachovia board member and chief of food-service concern

Aramark

.

Staff writer Laurie Kulikowski contributed to this report.