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Marketplace Scratch Pad

Poor Charlotte

Scott Jagow Nov 3, 2009

Bank of America has reportedly expanded its CEO search to include executives who would rather live in New York City than Charlotte, NC. It could portend Charlotte losing a second major banking headquarters in a very short time. Does someone have it out for my former town?

There’s no indication that the headquarters would move, but I suspect it’ll be considered. B of A opened a two million square foot building overlooking New York’s Bryant Park just this year. And Bloomberg reports that the top CEO candidates would prefer the Big Apple:

“It does reflect well on the board that they’re not going to let the headquarters location limit their selection in terms of CEOs,” said Thomas Brown, CEO of New York-based hedge fund Second Curve Capital. “There aren’t too many people around the world who think that Charlotte is a major financial center.”

Especially not people who run a New York-based hedge fund. But until last year, two of the four biggest banks were headquartered in Charlotte. Then, San Francisco-based Wells Fargo bought Wachovia, in a government brokered deal. The government also pushed B of A into owning Merrill Lynch, which is based in New York. Plus, the government’s hand in executive pay might be a reason for B of A expanding its search. From Daily Finance:

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.

Wait a second. Is it the federal government that’s trying to destroy Charlotte?

Seriously, New York needs another bank like the Yankees need another World Series title. From Crain’s New York:

While a transfer of BofA’s headquarters would likely result in only a few hundred new corporate jobs–far too few to make a dent in the tens of thousands of financial jobs lost in New York over the past two years–a move would bring other benefits.

For example, charitable giving from the bank would likely increase locally. Pam McDonough, a former Illinois state official who helped lure Boeing to Chicago, said the aircraft manufacturer quickly became a leading benefactor of Chicago’s public schools shortly after it moved. She added that it helped Chicago’s image to be seen in the place where globally-focused Boeing executives chose to work.

Meanwhile, a nice city like Charlotte would lose out on that stuff.

Then again, Charlotte, after all we’ve been through with the banks, maybe your attitude should be: New York, take them. Please.

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