Steel: No ‘operating role' in new bank

Wachovia chief executive Bob Steel said Wednesday that he will have no “operating role” once his bank and Wells Fargo complete their merger.

In the meantime, Steel, who took the helm in July, said his job will be to make sure Wachovia stays focused on its customers and to ensure the merger with Wells goes smoothly. He said other Wachovia executives will have a chance to be part of the combined company but did not give specifics.

“The people who are running Wells Fargo should run Wachovia,” Steel said.

“There's a whole group of people who are leaders in Wachovia, and there will be great opportunities for them.”

Asked if Steel might stay on as a director or in another capacity, Wachovia spokeswoman Christy Phillips-Brown declined to comment further.

Steel, 57, replaced the ousted Ken Thompson. Under his contract, he receives no severance payments for a change in control at the company. He will still own restricted shares in the company, but they need to hit certain price benchmarks to pay off.

The deal is expected to close by the end of the year.

Wednesday's event with employees followed a tumultuous month in which Steel went from trying to keep Wachovia independent to forging deals with Wells Fargo and Citigroup. “The fact that there were twists and turns and unpredictable surprise endings shouldn't be surprising,” he said, “given how uncharted these waters are.”

Rick Rothacker