President Barack Obama and his advisers, casting a wide net for potential candidates to lead the World Bank, considered in initial discussions Microsoft Corp. Chairman Bill Gates, PepsiCo Inc. Chairman and Chief Executive Officer Indra Nooyi, and Brown University President Ruth Simmons, according to a person familiar with the White House search.
Obama sought to look beyond the ranks of banking and government in seeking a replacement for Robert Zoellick, who plans to step down at the end of his term in June, said the person, who asked not to be named because the search process is confidential.
The White House now is narrowing its list of potential candidates. Among the smaller pool of people whose names have been circulated are former Treasury Secretary Lawrence Summers, who was Obama’s first director of the National Economic Council, Massachusetts Democratic Senator John Kerry and United Nations Ambassador Susan Rice, the person said.
“Senator Kerry hasn’t been contacted by the administration about the World Bank vacancy,” said Jodi Seth, communications director for Kerry. “While he has great respect for the institution and its role in the world, he’s not interested in the position.”
Mark Kornblau, communications director for Rice, and Kelly Friendly, a spokeswoman for Summers, declined to comment. John Pinette, a spokesman for Gates, and Peter Land, a spokesman for PepsiCo, also declined to comment. Marisa Quinn, a spokeswoman for Simmons, didn’t respond to a request for comment.
A White House official said that Obama has begun to consider the issue of replacing Zoellick.
Last month, concerned that the U.S. might lose its prerogative to select the World Bank president if challenged by the developing world, Obama asked his aides to expand the list of potential candidates. Officials sought a candidate who would be well-positioned to prevail if a coalition of developing countries were to rally behind a non-U.S. candidate, such as former Mexican President Ernesto Zedillo, the person said.
U.S. Traditional Pick
The U.S. has traditionally picked the World Bank president under an informal agreement that included having a European head of the International Monetary Fund. Last year, France’s Christine Lagarde was selected over Mexican central bank Governor Agustin Carstens to lead the IMF.
While no non-American challenge has emerged for Zoellick’s job, officials from China, Brazil and Mexico have called for a change in the tradition of U.S. World Bank leadership.
U.S. officials have said that the White House will nominate an American. “Our expectation is that we will nominate a strong American candidate and we will put our full backing behind that person,” Victoria Nuland, a state department spokeswoman said on Feb. 21 at a briefing.
The World Bank has said that it will accept nominations until March 23. Zoellick’s term expires June 30.
Under Zoellick’s presidency, shareholders approved the first capital increase in more than 20 years to meet demand from countries hit by the global slump that followed the 2008 financial crisis. His successor may face another surge in loan requests in the wake of the European debt crisis.
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