Charlotte, Charlotte chamber of commerce
Rick Havner/AP
A Wachovia sign is shown near the company's headquarters, background, in Charlotte, N.C.

Citigroup’s Wachovia Buyout Leaves Charlotte in Lurch

September 29, 2008 04:07 PM
by Emily Coakley
The sale of Wachovia leaves some wondering what will happen to the bank’s hometown, Charlotte, N.C., where it’s one of the largest employers.

Banktown Worried

Charlotte mayor Pat McCrory told the Observer that he planned to talk to the head of Citigroup on Monday to find out what’s in store for “Banktown.” He doesn’t know how many jobs could be gained or lost, he said.

Wachovia employs 20,000 people in Charlotte, according to the Observer. In 2006, it was the second largest employer, behind Carolinas HealthCare System, which employed 26,283, according to the city’s chamber of commerce.

The Queen City, as it’s also known, is the 20th largest in the United States, according to the chamber.

Opinion & Analysis: The fate of Charlotte

Mary Newsom, on her blog “The Naked City,” wonders what will happen to a 48-story tower Wachovia had been building in Charlotte.

“Will it stop the tower under construction? I think that’s unlikely. But an oversupply of office space may cause uptown rents to sink. Call it ‘affordable housing for offices,’” she wrote. Wachovia was supposed to take half the office space in the 1.5 million square-foot tower, which, as of June, had been fully leased, she said.

At the blog Ask Doug Smith, Doug says Banktown will never be the same.

“This is the day Charlotte leaders and financial analysts feared would come but hoped they would never see. Wachovia, so long the hunter, became the hunted,” Smith wrote. 

The financial clout the town got from having a large bank headquarters was a “recruiting tool” for Charlotte’s Chamber of Commerce, and gave “civic boosters something to brag about,” he said. 

Not everyone has been sympathetic to Charlotte’s possible plight. Yvette Kantrow, writing on the site, asked Banktown, “how does your barbecue taste now?” She said when Bank of America bought Merrill Lynch, the Observer gloated about a New York bank having to move down South.

Kantrow quoted columnist Doug Smith as saying, “When the merger is completed, those New York City dudes will be reporting to a Southern bank in a city where NASCAR rules and pork barbecue is gourmet cuisine. The North is taking note that the South has power and influence. And tasty barbecue. I bet those Merrill Lynch investment bankers will like it.”

Background: CEO retired in June at board’s request

Problems had been plaguing the bank for several months. Kennedy Thompson was forced into retirement in June after Wachovia had lost half its market value in a year, according to findingDulcinea.

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