Corporate finance executives at NationsBank Corp. are starting to look for a successor to Thomas Weisel, NationsBanc Montgomery Securities Inc.'s chief executive officer, who is expected to leave the company soon.
Mr. Weisel has been locked in a high-profile battle with NationsBank executives over control of San Francisco-based Montgomery. He founded the firm 27 years ago and sold it to NationsBank last October for $1.2 billion.
Sources say he will leave the firm when its annual investment banking conference, which is going on here this week, ends.
"I think it's safe to assume that Tom will go before day one," said one NationsBank executive close to the decision.
'Day one' refers to Oct. 1, the day after the anticipated completion of the Charlotte, N.C., bank's merger with San Francisco's BankAmerica Corp. The combined banking company would be the nation's largest.
"Right now Tom's doing what he does best, which is throw a party," the executive said.
Indeed, those attending Montgomery's lush 28th annual investment conference here this week have been treated to a performance by Kenny Loggins and a private reception at the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, where Mr. Weisel has funded a gallery.
Mr. Weisel attended the conference Monday and made some brief introductory remarks for the luncheon speaker, former Secretary of Defense Dick Cheney. Mr. Weisel declined to answer questions afterward about his future employment with Montgomery.
Speculation about his successor has focused on Wall Street veteran Carter McClelland, who agreed in June to join Montgomery as a senior managing director. But Mr. McClelland's employment remains in question; he failed to show up for his first scheduled day on the job Sept. 8.
Mr. McClelland, who spent 21 years at Morgan Stanley and was the chief executive officer of Deutsche Bank North America until February, could not be reached for comment.
Sources at NationsBank say he is mulling over his options. "We very much want him on board. And I think it is 90% likely he will join," the bank executive said.
His indecision may have less to do with the uncertainty over Mr. Weisel's role with the firm than it does with Mr. McClelland's feelings about the nature of the post-merger NationsBank.
"After surveying the landscape, he felt this was less of an investment bank and more of a commercial bank that does everything. He's still trying to decide if he can fit in," the executive said.
Executives from NationsBank and Montgomery and have been locked in a battle over control over Montgomery's high-yield bond business. The bank's purchase agreement with Montgomery specified that the investment bank would retain control over its high-yield shop.
Since then, Montgomery's San Francisco high-yield staff has been merged with the Charlotte bank's much-larger junk bond effort.
Last month bank executives decided that NationsBank's Thomas White would run high-yield sales and trading when the merger with BankAmerica was completed, rather than Montgomery partner Jerome Markowitz, another contender for the job.
Executives also decided that Bob Griffin, a BankAmerica executive who will be in charge of high-yield origination after the merger, would report directly to Edward Brown, NationsBank's president of corporate finance who will be in charge of global investment banking for the combined bank.