Brian Moynihan, the 50-year-old executive in charge of Bank of America Corp.'s sprawling consumer and small-business units, was named chief executive, succeeding Kenneth Lewis, people familiar with the situation said.

Directors at the Charlotte, N.C., company voted unanimously Wednesday night to promote Mr. Moynihan to CEO of the nation's largest bank in assets, according to one person close to the discussions.

An Ohio-born lawyer who lives in the Boston area and is one of the few holdovers from the bank's 2004 takeover of FleetBoston Financial Corp., Mr. Moynihan nudged ahead of 61-year-old chief risk officer Gregory Curl after talks with external candidate Robert Kelly fell apart Monday because of differences over his pay package and other issues.

Mr. Moynihan's hiring is a departure from Bank of America's long history of selecting homegrown executives who came up through the ranks of the old North Carolina National Bank and NationsBank, two Bank of America predecessors.

Mr. Moynihan has long been considered a potential successor to Mr. Lewis, holding a variety of posts at the bank, some for short periods of time. A year ago, Mr. Moynihan nearly left Bank of America when he turned down an offer from Mr. Lewis to run the credit card business and move to Delaware.

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