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The Road to Ruin?

First Stop: Charlotte, N.C.

Amy Scott Oct 1, 2008

Hiya, Tess, and readers. I think I’m ready!

It’s been more than four years since I last went to Charlotte, for a story on the city’s rise as a financial center.

At the time, former Mayor Harvey Gantt told me, “We’re always one acquisition away from someone moving the center of gravity out of this town.” Meaning, if Bank of America or Wachovia were snapped up by some other bank, the whole thing could fall apart. I couldn’t help but think of those words this week as news broke that Citigroup had agreed to buy Wachovia’s banking operations.

But just as one of the city’s corporate icons teeters, another thrives. After snapping up Countrywide earlier this year and Merrill Lynch a few weeks ago, Bank of America appears to be one of the few winners to come out of this mess. For now.

As Wall Street as we’ve known it crumbles, it seems fitting to leave my home in New York to begin this journey in the country’s second-largest banking center. The retired chairman of Bank of America, Hugh McColl, once told me there was nothing happening in New York that couldn’t happen in Charlotte. With the bank he helped build now set to become the world’s largest brokerage, his swagger seems a bit more justified.

Now, on to Charleston, West Virginia. But not before I sneak in some of Charlotte’s famous soul food and look into this gasoline shortage we’ve been hearing about.

So, assuming I can fill up . . . Meet me in St. Louis?

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