Cover Story: Bank of America and Charlotte

By Jeff Atkinson - bio | email

CHARLOTTE, NC (WBTV) - Bank of America's new CEO could be announced any day now, possibly any minute.  And Charlotte city leaders are preparing to court the new chief executive Ken Lewis' replacement.  However, some in Charlotte are hitting the panic button, concerned over who will take over the nation's largest bank.  There are fears the new CEO will move the bank's headquarters.  In our Cover Story, PrimeTime's Jeff Atkinson explores the real concerns, and the hype.

Are the fears real or imagined?  A little bit of both.

The fact of an outsider with no Charlotte ties taking the Bof A headquarters somewhere else has drawn the attention of the governor.  And it has city leaders a little on edge.

But should they be?

Of the internal candidates being mentioned.. Brian Moynihan, Sallie Krawcheck, Thomas Montag and Joe Price only Price works at BofA's Corporate Center in Charlotte.

Krawcheck and Montag are in Manhattan.

Moynihan, who some consider the leading candidate, is based in Boston.

Could the new CEO rooted in some other city decide not to move to Charlotte and decide to bring his or her lieutenants there?  It's been bandied about in the press.

And we've done it as well.

"Might move north..."

But is it just Charlotte insecurity?.. hang-wringing over nothing?

"I'm not sure I'd say it's nothing."

Tony Crumbley, vice president of research for the Charlotte Chamber says some concern is warranted.

Wachovia demonstrated anything can happen.  Losing the headquarters more than bruised the city's ego.

But Crumbley makes the distinction that was a case of a bank being bought up.. this isn't.

"They are finding another individual to run this bank," he says.  "And this bank is here in Charlotte now. There's got to be some strong motivation to move that bank."

And city leaders believe you can't beat these numbers.

Charlotte's cost of living, cost of construction, and cost of office space all cheaper-- by a long shot than either Boston or New York.

And even during the recession plenty of companies have either moved or expanded their operations here.

On Wednesday, Premier Health Care said it was choosing Charlotte over San Diego.

"We'll be relocating the Premier Corporation headquarters to Charlotte, North Carolina," says Susan DeVore, president and CEO of Premier.

Banks have done a lot to make the city a more attractive place for recruiting good talent.

Wachovia built a new cultural complex in Uptown just one example.

Since BofA is already here.. there's not much in the way of financial incentives the state and local governments can give to try to keep it here.

But Gov. Perdue is said to be actively following who might take over as CEO.. and wants to make the first phone call when that happens.

Says Crumbley, "We're attuned to the announcement when that announcement comes. who it will be and then we'll get real active getting on the phone and offering any assistance we can to make sure the transition is easy."

City leaders have put together a bio on the chief executive candidates and given it to the governor so she's up to speed when the announcement comes.

Again, there's concern.. but not panic.

Tony Crumbley said in the story that Bank of America would have to have some strong motivation to move? What might that be?

Might be the CEO's personal reasons.. he or she more entrenched in the Bank in another city..

Or with the bank may feel it needs to make a dramatic change to get the feds off its back.. that could be a motivation.

But financially not a sound decision.