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Charlotte

Motor City loses big wheels but not headquarters 

GMAC Inc. is based in Detroit. It says so on the automobile lender’s Web site. It says so in its regulatory filings. But CEO Al de Molina lives and works in Charlotte. So do the company’s chief risk officer, chief marketing officer, treasurer, head of human resources and chief compliance officer. By the litmus test of former Bank of America Corp. CEO Hugh McColl, GMAC is based in the Queen City. “Mr. McColl used to say, ‘The headquarters is wherever I am,’” says de Molina, who worked at BofA for 17 years and has lived in Charlotte for 20. “I wouldn’t go that far.”

Many have speculated that GMAC would move its headquarters to Charlotte because of the city’s rich supply of banking talent. But Detroit has history and heartbreak on its side. GMAC, then General Motors Acceptance Corp., was started there 90 years ago to help GM sell cars. Since then, the Motor City has fallen on hard times. Its population has decreased 45% since 1960, and the unemployment rate in the metro area has been in double digits since January, hitting 16.4% in July. When it announced its major expansion in Charlotte last spring, GMAC decided not to move its headquarters. “The titular headquarters have always been in Detroit,” de Molina says. “And we didn’t think that Detroit nor Michigan needed to have another kick in the side of the head.”

In 2006, GM sold controlling interest in GMAC to investors led by New York-based Cerberus Capital Management LP, and GMAC has struggled since, posting a loss in its first full year of independence. In the second quarter, it suffered its third loss in four quarters. De Molina is turning GMAC into a bank holding company to broaden its focus, and much of the brainpower for that effort is in Charlotte. The company will create 200 jobs there, boosting local employment to more than 400 by the second quarter of 2011.

If GMAC wants to be successful, its future is in Charlotte, not Detroit, says Tony Plath, associate professor of finance at UNC Charlotte. It’s a far better market for recruiting people with the necessary expertise. “They’re a bank holding company, which means that they’ve got to develop a diversified loan book. They’ve got to have expertise to manage a securities portfolio. They’ve got to have the marketing talent to take deposits. They’re not just financing Chevys anymore.”

De Molina knows better than anyone how important Charlotte is to GMAC. But with modern communications, he says, it’s not important that the headquarters follow the top executives. “It really is something that doesn’t cost us anything but helps somebody else, and therefore it’s a win-win — or a win-draw — and you might as well do it.”

Cubs leave big cat lair

In a family business, children often take over from their parents, and that seemed to be the direction the Carolina Panthers were heading. But Mark and Jon Richardson, sons of majority owner Jerry Richardson, resigned as team president and stadium president, respectively. No reason was given, but they reportedly clashed often. Both remain members of the National Football League’s Charlotte franchise ownership group, but the move raises doubts about who will eventually succeed their 73-year-old dad. Danny Morrison, former athletics director at Texas Christian University, took over as team president. From 1985 to 1997, the Burlington native was A.D. at Wofford College. The Spartanburg, S.C., school, where the Panthers hold training camp, is Jerry Richardson’s alma mater.

 

CHARLOTTECelgard received a $49 million federal grant that will help it create about 200 jobs in three years and increase employment to more than 525. The company, part of Polypore International, makes parts for rechargeable batteries.

CHARLOTTEBank of America shook up its senior management. Sallie Krawcheck came from New York-based Citigroup to run BofA’s wealth and investment-management divisions. Brian Moynihan, who had run those divisions as well as corporate and investment banking, heads consumer banking. Tom Montag added corporate and investment banking to his job running corporate markets. Liam McGee, who headed consumer banking, left the company. Many see Krawcheck, Moynihan and Montag as CEO candidates.

HICKORYCovation will delay indefinitely the opening of a local call center that would employ about 900. The Atlanta-based company blamed tight credit and concern about the economy. It had planned to open the center in April and employ more than 500 by the end of 2009.

CHARLOTTEOneCare will close its warehouse here by the end of the month, idling 50. The Alpharetta, Ga.-based distributor of household products is consolidating operations in Georgia.

CHARLOTTEBiotage will move its U.S. headquarters here from Charlottesville, Va., this month. The Swedish company, which makes products for drug researchers, will employ about 20.

CHARLOTTE — Jane McIntyre, former CEO of YWCA Central Carolinas, was named executive director of United Way Central Carolinas. She replaced Mac Everett, a retired bank executive who led the agency for nine months after the board fired Gloria Pace King last year (Cover story, April).

CHARLOTTEDuke Energy, the biggest electric utility in the state, agreed to share technology and information about renewable energy with China Huaneng Group, the largest utility in that country. The goal is to reduce greenhouse-gas emissions.