Bank of America Corp. directors chose as chairman former DuPont Co. chief executive Charles O. Holliday Jr., elevating a close adviser to the giant bank's new top boss.
The move, which came after the Charlotte, N.C., company's annual shareholder meeting Wednesday, partly reflects Mr. Holliday's experience running a sprawling global company, according to people familiar with the situation. Bank of America is pushing for more non-U.S. growth to help replace revenue likely to be lost as U.S. banks are hit with tighter regulation.
The 62-year-old Mr. Holliday, the chemical company's CEO from 1998 to 2008, joined the Bank of America board last year amid a government-forced shake-up. He helped lead the largest U.S. bank's search for a new chief executive after Kenneth D. Lewis announced his retirement last fall.
Brian Moynihan moved into the top job on Jan. 1, and Mr. Holliday has emerged as a frequent adviser, even urging the bank's new chief executive not to accept a seat on another company's board while he is adjusting to the CEO duties at Bank of America, said one person familiar with the matter.
Mr. Holliday, who was trained as an industrial engineer and stepped down as DuPont chairman at the end of 2009, is "not one to turn down a difficult assignment," said David Swayze, a lawyer in Wilmington, Del., who knows Mr. Holliday professionally. The new Bank of America chairman could help the bank "be competitive in an increasingly regulated environment," Mr. Swayze added.
As CEO of DuPont, Mr. Holliday worked to reposition the company more broadly in agriculture, biotechnology and other areas, completing more than $60 billion in acquisitions. Yet he was a target of shareholders unhappy with DuPont's stock price.
John A. Krol, who successfully recommended that Mr. Holliday succeed him as DuPont chief executive, said Mr. Holliday was adept at managing change. Directors were able to reach agreement on tough decisions because he "would go around and ask each person to give an opinion before voicing his own," recalled Mr. Krol, now chairman of Delphi Automotive LLP.
Mr. Holliday can "can bring lots of points of view together and come out with the right conclusion," Mr. Krol said.
Details of Wednesday's boardroom discussions leading up to the chairman vote weren't clear. Some directors previously preferred someone with a longer history at Bank of America, according to people familiar with the deliberations.
The Wall Street Journal reported that Frank Bramble, a former vice chairman at credit-card issuer MBNA Corp., also was considered a leading contender for the chairman slot. Mr. Bramble joined the Bank of America board in 2006, when MBNA was acquired for $35 billion.
Bank of America's board has been in flux since angry shareholders last year stripped Mr. Lewis of some of his power by voting to no longer allow the company's CEO to simultaneously serve as chairman. Walter Massey, who took over as chairman last year, recently reached the board's mandatory retirement age of 72 and didn't face re-election at Wednesday's meeting.
Of the 13 directors elected by shareholders Wednesday, just four were on the Bank of America board before 2009. The reconstituted board is widely considered to be more accommodating of vigorous debate and dissent than it was under Mr. Lewis.