President Barack Obama nominated Bank of America Corp. executive Stefan Selig to oversee international trade as he seeks to jumpstart the economy by appointing a Wall Street veteran to the Commerce Department.
The White House announced the nomination yesterday, subject to confirmation by the U.S. Senate. Selig, Bank of America’s executive vice chairman of global corporate and investment banking, would report to Penny Pritzker, the Chicago businesswoman confirmed in June as Commerce secretary.
Selig, 50, would replace Francisco Sanchez as undersecretary for international trade, a job that involves promoting American industry at home and abroad as head of Commerce’s International Trade Administration. Sanchez said in September he would resign from the post he has held since 2009.
“Stefan Selig is a tremendous talent and we’ll be lucky to have him join the Commerce Department,” Pritzker said. “He has the global experience, management skills and understanding of how to put deals together to ensure that we will be able to continue our critical work to expand trade and exports, grow our economy and create jobs.”
Selig was lured to the position by Pritzker, who decided a Wall Street dealmaker could help the U.S. narrow its trade deficit by convincing companies in developing economies to buy more goods and services from the states.
The U.S. trade gap was little changed in August at $38.8 billion, the Commerce Department reported in October, as imports and exports stalled. The president announced an initiative in 2010 to double U.S. exports between 2009 to 2014, to $3.14 trillion. They totalled $2.2 trillion last year.
Selig, known in banking circles for his tailored suits and fashion sense, has been giving companies merger advice for 29 years. He advised Time Warner Inc. on the spinoff its AOL Internet unit in 2009 and also helped coordinate L Brands Inc.’s sales of Express LLC and New York & Co.
“Stefan is one of the more memorable and personable talents on Wall Street,” said Larry Grafstein, co-head of M&A at UBS AG who first worked with Selig about 25 years ago. “He is a genuine adviser in every sense of the word and he will no doubt be a great asset to the administration.”
In his new job, he’ll be paid about $163,000 a year to essentially be the investment banker for the U.S. This will involve travelling to Asia, South America and elsewhere.
Selig would join a handful of prominent bankers that have left their jobs to join the Obama administration. Treasury Secretary Jacob J. Lew and U.S. Trade Representative Michael Froman helped oversee a Citigroup Inc. unit involved in hedge funds and private equity. William M. Daley, Obama’s former chief of staff, was JPMorgan Chase & Co.’s Midwest chairman and head of corporate responsibility.
Selig differs from those three and Pritzker in that this would be his first job in politics. Lew and Froman worked for President Bill Clinton. Pritzker, an heiress whose family started Hyatt Hotels Corp., was Obama’s national finance chair in his 2008 election campaign.
“In my experience with Stefan he is an outstanding business person who has a broad strategic expertise and an ability to get things done,” said Douglas Braunstein, vice chairman of JPMorgan Chase & Co., who worked across the table from Selig in the 2003 merger of Caremark and Advance PCS for $5.3 billion.
Selig ran Bank of America’s M&A group before its purchase in 2009 of Merrill Lynch & Co. The team advised on more than $1 trillion in deals while Selig was in charge, Bank of America said in a memo announcing Selig’s promotion in 2009.
He began his career at First Boston Corp in 1984, and left with Bruce Wasserstein and Joseph Perella in 1988 to help start Wasserstein Perella & Co.