In a strange coincidence, almost one year ago another powerful banking executive named Ken found that his bank was stripping him of the chairmanship of the board of directors, creating a non-executive chairman position.
On May 9th of last year, Wachovia announced it was separating its chairman and CEO roles. Ken Thompson kept his roles President, CEO and remained a board director. But the chairmanship of the board went to Lanty Smith, Wachovia’s lead director since 2000.
There were assurances, not the least to Thompson himself, that he would be able to keep his job. In fact, when Thompson reacted to the news, he almost sounded happy about it.
“At this challenging time for the financial services industry and for Wachovia, my management team and I are pleased that Lanty agreed to assume the role and responsibilities of chairman, freeing me to focus 100 per cent of my time and attention on guiding the company through the current environment and building and delivering enhanced value for the benefit of our shareholders, customers and employees,” Thompson stated.
Less than one month later, however, the board removed Thompson from his jobs as President and CEO. He was out on his ear, and the board didn’t even cite a reason for his ouster.
So Ken Lewis has at least a bit of reason to be nervous about today’s events.