Another head of another big bank is rolling ... all the way out the door. On Wednesday, Bank of America CEO Kenneth Lewis made the startling announcement that he was opting to take early retirement, effective the last day of this calendar year. —KA
The New York Times:
Mr. Lewis, 62, has been under immense pressure since the bank merged with Merrill Lynch at the height of the financial crisis. The deal, which capped a string of bold acquisitions he used to forge Bank of America into the nation’s largest bank, quickly created one headache after another, though Merrill’s units are performing well now.
Some have defended Mr. Lewis, saying that while he was initially eager to snap up Merrill, he was given little choice by federal regulators when they urged him to move forward with the deal even when Merrill’s losses turned out to be larger than first thought. Mr. Lewis has defended the merger as strategically important to the long-term health of Bank of America and has said the deal is already paying off in improved operating profit.
But shortly after the merger was sealed, shareholders began questioning whether Mr. Lewis paid too much for Merrill. The merger pushed the bank toward a second bailout from the government soon after its completion, upsetting many who worried about leaning on a $45 billion taxpayer lifeline, and who saw the value of their shares evaporate. In the spring, they voted to strip Mr. Lewis of his chairmanship.
[...] Mr. Lewis began thinking about retiring while he was on vacation in Aspen, Colo., in late August, according to the sources briefed on his decision. He surprised colleagues when he returned to work sporting a beard, something no one could remember him doing in decades.
So long, Mr. Lewis: Bank of America Chief Executive Officer Kenneth Lewis prepares to testify on Capitol Hill before the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee last June 11.