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Charlotte’s grip slips on bank 

As quickly as it came, Charlotte’s claim to being the real headquarters of the nation’s 14th-largest bank holding company vanished. When GMAC Inc. named Al de Molina CEO in April 2008, headquarters remained in Detroit, but he stayed in the Queen City, his home for nearly 20 years. Other top executives worked there, too, including the chief risk officer, chief marketing officer and head of human resources (Regional Report, October 2009).

But the board forced de Molina to resign in November and made board member Michael Carpenter chief executive. Carpenter, who started New York-based Southgate Alternative Investments in 2007 after 12 years in top management at Citigroup Inc., had joined the board in May. The company, officials say, will benefit from his experience in banking, capital markets and turnarounds. It has lost money three straight quarters.

Aside from the CEO post moving to New York, it’s business as usual for GMAC in Charlotte, spokeswoman Gina Proia says. “There’s no change planned for our corporate center in Charlotte. There are talented people there. Michael has worked in organizations like this before, where there were several different locations in the broader footprint. As long as it works, he has no problem with it.”

Keeping high-level people in Charlotte makes sense, says Tony Plath, associate professor of finance at UNC Charlotte. Detroit isn’t a good place for a new bank holding company because it doesn’t have much banking talent. Charlotte even stacks up favorably against New York in some ways. “In their main line of business, which is decidedly consumer finance, this market makes the best sense in the country for them. You can find investment bankers and traders and M&A guys in New York. But you can find experienced consumer bankers in Charlotte in greater numbers.” Plus, “they’re a lot cheaper in Charlotte than they’d be in New York.”

Charlotte isn’t immune from cutbacks at GMAC. Though it had added 200 Queen City jobs in 2009, it cut about 45 mortgage jobs less than a month after de Molina resigned, leaving about 470 in Charlotte. Proia wouldn’t say if the decision was made before or after de Molina left. “This is not something that just suddenly happened. This is something that’s been looked at in the context of the broader mortgage operation.” It could have been worse. On the same day, GMAC announced it was closing its loan-processing center in West Hartford, Conn., idling about 85.

Mall deal falls apart

There was no doubt that Charlotte wanted to buy ailing Eastland Mall and redevelop it (cover story, October). The question was how much? The answer: not enough to pay the $22 million mall owners wanted. City Council had offered $7.4 million for most of the 83-acre site. In November, with the two sides so far apart on price, it directed city staff to drop efforts. That means Charlotte likely will forfeit $400,000 it spent on options to buy empty Belk and Dillard stores. Miami Beach, Fla.-based LNR Property Corp., which owns the stores between the anchors, declined comment on its plans. Columbus, Ohio-based Glimcher Realty Trust has turned over its piece of the mall to LNR, its lender.


CHARLOTTE — The N.C. Judicial Standards Commission asked the state Supreme Court to remove Bill Belk, grandson of the founder of the Belk department store chain, as a Mecklenburg County district court judge (Regional Report, March). Belk, 60, resigned the post, but removal will bar him from being elected again. He was accused of violating the N.C. Code of Judicial Conduct by serving on the boards of at least two companies while in office.

SALISBURYW.A. Brown & Son closed, ending jobs for about 100. The company, which makes commercial coolers and freezers, cited difficulty securing financing.

SALISBURYMI Windows and Doors planned to close its plant by the end of the year, idling about 110. The Gratz, Pa.-based company is moving window fabrication to a factory in Pennsylvania.

NEW LONDONClayton Homes plans to close its plant here by the middle of the month and let go 97 employees. The Maryville, Tenn.-based mobile-home maker is part of Omaha, Neb.-based Berkshire Hathaway.

CHARLOTTEWastequip, which makes containers and other equipment for trash, plans to move its headquarters here during the first quarter. About 30 employees will move from Cleveland.

CHARLOTTE — The city hired Carolyn Flowers, 60, as transit chief. She was chief operations officer for the Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transit Authority and replaced Keith Parker, who left in June for a similar job in San Antonio, Texas.

GASTONIADaimler Trucks North America recalled 25 workers to its Freightliner plant, bringing employment there to more than 650. The Portland, Ore.-based company laid off 355 there last spring. Over the summer, it recalled 180.

HICKORYLegacy Furniture Group, which makes furniture for offices, hotels, hospitals and others, will add 50 jobs within five years, boosting employment to about 90.