Inside Queen City
In the heyday of their rivalry, First Union Corp. CEO Ed Crutchfield and Bank of America Corp. CEO Hugh McColl competed over everything from the height of their office buildings to the generosity of their companies' contributions to United Way. In parts of the soon-to-be-released book "Banktown," longtime Charlotte Observer banking reporter Rick Rothacker examines the cost of testosterone-fueled decision-making — and some executives' distaste for it.
After the announcement of the 2001 merger of Wachovia Corp. and First Union, legendary former Wachovia CEO John Medlin sent incoming CEO Ken Thompson a bit of unsolicited advice.
Medlin shared with Thompson "a crass cartoon that showed McColl and Crutchfield boasting about the size of their respective bank towers" that had been done up by an Observer cartoonist but deemed unfit for print, Rothacker writes, and it had made its way to Medlin.
" 'Put this in your desk and look at it once in a while,' " read Medlin's note to Thompson.
Along with the recent history of the South's banking center, the book also explores the drama of Wachovia's and Bank of America's attempts to weather the worst of the financial crisis in the fall of 2008, coming up with new details about turning points for both banks. One example is the Wells Fargo & Co. offer that broke up Citigroup Inc.'s plan to buy Wachovia's banking unit in a government-assisted deal. Citigroup was blindsided — then-Deputy General Counsel Andrew Felner did not learn about the sale until it was already complete. "Banktown" recounts how Wachovia's general counsel, Jane Sherburne, broke the news to Felner, who happened to be a friend.
" 'We just signed at $7 a share, for the whole company, no government assistance,' " she said. " 'It's a done deal, and we're leaving.' "
" 'You can't do that,' " Felner exploded. " 'You have an exclusivity agreement.' "
" 'I know,' " Sherburne said.
" 'We will sue you for billions,' " Felner said.
" 'I know,' " Sherburne said."
Bloggin' on Banks
Speaking of Bank of America … the company got a lesson Wednesday in the pervasiveness of social media.
Company officials participated in a "Banker's Perspective" panel discussion in Boston as part of events organized by the Charlotte Chamber of Commerce. Bank of America opted against opening the roundtable to the public, though it was moderated by Brian Moynihan, the company's chief executive. Other participants included McColl and current board member Chad Gifford.
Comments from the session still made the rounds after several attendees began using Twitter to report on the event. The irony wasn't lost on Todd Wallack, a reporter for The Boston Globe, who used his Twitter account to point out the situation. "Go figure," he posted. "Bank of America banned media from the lunch with Charlotte leaders. But participants are tweeting the event."
B of A spokesman T.J. Crawford said access to the event was by invitation only and the company chose not to invite media members. Regarding the prevalence of social media, he said, "That's not something we'd likely attempt to control."
Crawford said the company monitors such posts and would intervene to address inaccuracies if they are picked up by mainstream media.
No bombshells emerged. The speakers for the most part seemed to restrict their comments to public policy issues such as education and investment in Boston. Natalie English, a lobbyist for the Charlotte Chamber, posted that the former executives offered "advice and compliments" to Moynihan "including to stay the course and keep working with regulators."
Huntington Bancshares Inc. has hired equipment-finance industry veteran Richard Remiker to oversee a national expansion of its equipment-finance division.
Remiker, who has been named president of the unit, joins the Columbus, Ohio, banking company from RBS Asset Finance Inc., a U.S. leasing arm of Royal Bank of Scotland. Remiker will expand Huntington's equipment business into commercial leasing and capital equipment financing for small and large companies. …
HSBC Holdings PLC has hired Ben Katz to help oversee its debt operations in the U.S. Katz, who was previously with Deutsche Bank, will run HSBC's investment-grade debt capital markets business in New York and co-head its financing group for the Americas. Katz will help U.S. financial institutions raise debt.