CHICAGO - The well-respected lawyer-turned-investment-banker George Pitt will resign from Chicago-based Banc One Capital Markets on June 16, bank officials confirmed Monday. Pitt had headed the bank's investment banking effort since late 1998.
Pitt, who joined the firm to work on health care deals but was soon elevated to a managerial position, said he felt no pressure to leave, but he did miss deal-making. "After a while, I realized it's not where my heart is and not something I want to do for the rest of my career," Pitt said of his administrative role.
With a reorganization of the Bank One subsidiary underway, Pitt said that now seemed the appropriate time to leave. "I didn't feel it was right to participate as a member of the team on a long-term basis if I wasn't planning on staying," he said in an interview Monday.
Bank One officials attempted to find a spot that would suit Pitt, but he said that's a difficult transition to make internally. Pitt said several law firms have contacted him about positions, but he first plans to take a brief break, and then expects to remain in investment banking.
Pitt's impending departure did not surprise many local market players, who said they anticipated it in the wake of new Bank One president Jamie Dimon's decision to tinker with the investment banking section of the company. The head of capital markets, who Pitt reported to, was ousted last month and Dimon launched a national search for a new head who will report directly to him.
Sources said Dimon, a former president at Citigroup Inc. with a background in investment banking at Citigroup's Salomon Smith Barney Inc., has favored younger, Wall Street-educated professionals in his recent hires in an effort to model the bank more like a player on the Street. Pitt did not fit that mold.
Market sources said that Bank One may have not overtly pressured Pitt to leave, but the strain did exist. Several sources also said that given Pitt's reputation in the public finance community and with issuers, it would have been a foolish business decision to actively oust him.
Pitt was lured away from Katten Muchin & Zavis early in 1998 to head up First Chicago Capital Markets Inc.'s health care financing group.
Later that year, First Chicago, which had been plagued by continual staffing departures, merged with Bank One, and under a restructuring Pitt was elevated to head up corporate and municipal investment banking.
Market players said Pitt made several strong hires - bankers who do fit the Dimon mold - and implemented what has been a successful strategy to increase the bank's numbers in its expanded marketplace that resulted from the merger.
But with the hiring in March 1999 of Barry Smitherman, who had worked in the Houston office of J.P. Morgan Securities Inc., to head traditional municipal financing, Pitt became increasingly focused on administrative duties, which was evident when Elizabeth Coolidge abruptly resigned in April.
Coolidge was hired in part for her relationships with Chicago-area issuers, an area where Banc One was hurting after the quiet departure of Clark Burrus after the merger. Coolidge clashed with Smitherman, and Pitt was reportedly not aware of their difficult relationship until it was too late to persuade Coolidge to stay.
In other staffing developments at Banc One, Stephanie Neely-Boyd, a director, will leave to open a Chicago office for Jackson Securities Inc. The bank also recently hired banker Raymond Coyne away from William Blair & Co. in Chicago. Coyne has a strong client base, especially with Illinois and other Midwestern state school districts.
Mary Wisniewski of The Bond Buyer contributed to this story.