Ten Women Who Should Be Big Company CEOs

Twelve of the Fortune 500 CEOs are women. Just twelve. Over the next year, that number is likely to go up considerably because of a confluence of economic and financial factors that have not existed in years. The first of those is that because of the economy there will probably be higher turnover rates of chief executives at large companies. Next, there are a relatively large number of extremely talented women in the tier of senior management just below the CEO level.  Many of these women who are in the No.2 or No.3 spots at their firms are the same age or older than their current CEOs.  It is then very unlikely that they will become CEO at their current firm.

This list of the ten women who should become CEOs of big American companies in is based on an overview of the industries which have many troubled companies and the women who are experienced enough to run big companies that need new chief executives.   The major sectors in the 24/7 Wall St. survey are the financial services, technology, retail  and airline industries which are likely to remain troubled for quite some time.
Financial services
Depending on the result of financial stress tests, corporate boards and the administration will have to look hard at the performance and future prospects of the current CEOs at Citigroup (C), Bank of America (BAC), SunTrust (STI), Regions Financial (RF), Fifth Third (FITB).  All five look like they will do badly on the government’s “stress tests” JP Morgan recently downgraded the earnings prospects for all of these firms. If the federal government has to put substantial amounts of money into any company on the list or takes a larger equity position, it could lead to a de facto nationalization, a situation which would put the Treasury and Fed in a position where they could insist on  choosing the next CEO.  Depending on how badly some of these large banks perform over the next one or two quarters, chief executive jobs could open up at six or seven operations.
1) Heidi Miller will be the first person on most recruitment lists for large financial services company CEOs. She is currently the head of the JP Morgan’s (JPM) huge securities and treasury management operations. Before her current job she was CFO of Bank One. She is on the boards of Merck (MRK) and General Mills. Her boss, Jamie Dimon, is at an age where he is likely to run JP Morgan for another decade. She will be a bank CEO by the end of the year.

2) Sallie Krawcheck, who is only in her early 40s, was pushed out of Citigroup in a dispute with current CEO VIkram Pandit, a man she may end up replacing. She was extremely well respected on Wall St. when she was the chairman of the big financial research firm Sanford C. Bernstein. She served as CIti’s CFO for three years and then ran the company’s wealth management unit. She is as well qualified to run a large bank as anyone in America.

3) Pat Callahan is the other candidate who would have to be near the top of any recruiting list for large bank CEOs. She is the Wells Fargo executive vice president who is handling the merger integration of Wachovia, great training for running another large financial institution. Earlier in her career she ran wholesale banking operations and financial operations.

There are a large number of companies in the tech and telecom sector that will probably replace CEOs in the next year. Disk drive maker Seagate (STX) may fire its CEO due to the company’s disappointing performance which has extended over a long period, exhausting shareholders. National Semiconductor (NSM) which is struggling with a huge debt load may well have to replace its CEO, especially if it wants to refinance its credit obligations. The same is true for AMD (AMD). Motorola (MOT) will not be able to keep its two top managers, especially if it plans to spin-off its handset unit. It has had too many disappointing quarters.  Motorola will have to bring in an impressive replacement to run the company if it wants to have any chance of reclaiming its reputation on Wall St. A much longer shot, but one that its shareholders should hope for, is that Michael Dell (DELL) will admit that his tenure as CEO has been a mistake and move back to being non-executive chairman with a strong chief executive the way Bill Ford did when he brought in Alan Mulally from Boeing (BA) to run Ford (F).

4) Virginia Rometty, the head of global sales and distribution at IBM (IBM) was previously in charge of the company’s consulting and systems integration business. She may actually have such a large job now that she would not leave. But, 5) Linda Sanford, who runs IBM’s “on demand” initiatives would have to be high on the list of the National Semi, Seagate, and AMD positions.

5) Ann Livermore is the most sought-after female tech executive in the United States who is not a CEO.  She runs Hewlett-Packard’s technology solutions group.  Mark Hurd, HP’s CEO is still young enough that he is unlikely to leave Hewlett-Packard anytime soon.  Livermore would be a candidate for most, if not all of the tech companies that are likely to replace their chief executives. If Michael Dell comes to his senses, Livermore would have to be his first choice.

A lot of retail executives will be replaced this year. Sears (SHLD) is run by an interim CEO. Abercrombie & Fitch (ANF) is under-performing in the worst sector of the economy. Jones Apparel (JNY) has just closed 225 stores and barely broke even last quarter. Talbots (TLB) is in deep trouble and its same-store sales in the fourth quarter were down 25%.

7) Jenny Ming, who is a partner at private equity firm Advent International, would be on any headhunter’s retail CEO list. She was the head of the Old Navy unit of Gap (GPS) when it was still doing well. She will almost certainly end up running another large retailer.

8) Carol Meyrowitz, is the CEO of retailer TJX (TJX), the off-price retailer which has over 130,000 employees and 2000 store locations.  The company has posted results which have bested most of its peers.  She would be a strong candidate for the Sears job.

9) Claire Babrowski EVP of Toys “R” Us has held senior positions at RadioShack and McDonald’s (MCD) She is with a company which has a weak competitive position which would make her more likely to be willing to move than someone at a company with stable prospects.

Airlines made a recovery late last year as fuel prices dropped. Since then, faltering traffic has put all of the carriers back into trouble. United (UAUA) and American (AMR) are considered in worse shape than their peers. Each needs new leadership either to take them out of trouble or take one through another airline Chapter 11.

10) Collen Barrett, the retired head of Southwest (LUV), would be perfect for either of these jobs.  She is still works for Southwest and remains on the board and is the Corporate Secretary. Southwest has been the best run airline in the United States for more than two decades.

The number of Fortune 500 female CEOs could double by the end of the year, and based on the talent pool of senior executives, it should.

Douglas A. McIntyre

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