Oh, the fickle Wall Street Journal. It was so kind last month, when the American Banker named Bank of America’s Ken Lewis Banker of the Year for the second time in six years:
If anyone deserved the award, it is Mr. Lewis. Bank of America, of Charlotte, N.C., is one of the year’s survivors, and Mr. Lewis rescued two big firms — California mortgage lender Countrywide Financial Corp. and New York securities firm Merrill Lynch & Co. — from collapse.
An informal survey of management consultants, recruiters, investors and governance specialists pointed to several other CEOs whose jobs may be vulnerable: Rick Wagoner of General Motors Corp.; Vikram Pandit of Citigroup Inc.; Jonathan Schwartz of Sun Microsystems Inc.; Steve Odland of Office Depot Inc.; and Kenneth Lewis of Bank of America Corp.
It’s true that boards don’t care about awards, they care about share price. And Bank of America, at $10 a share and trading on a price-to-book ratio of just 0.38, is shaky indeed. But Lewis isn’t just CEO, he’s also the chairman of the board, which makes his ouster that much harder. And it’s very hard to see how anybody else would be able to take over and do an obviously better job of running a bank which of necessity will be structured for the foreseeable future very much according to Lewis’s vision.
Still, anybody who fancies the idea of running a too-big-to-fail bank now has two possible job openings to fantasize about. Not that either of them looks particularly attractive.