De Molina )
GMAC Financial Services, whose Motor City roots date back 90 years, is considering changing its headquarters from Detroit to Charlotte, N.C., but would keep its auto financing arm here.
One reason for considering the shift: Charlotte is the home of GMAC CEO Alvaro de Molina, who joined GMAC in 2007 after a 17-year career at Charlotte-based Bank of America.
"Our CEO lives in Charlotte and operates out of that city. Whether we decide it becomes our legal headquarters, I don't know," said Toni Simonetti, GMAC spokeswoman. "But we are going to have a strong presence in Detroit. Detroit is the center of our auto business and that is not going to change."
No timeline has been set when the decision would be made, she said, but, the regional financial center is actively wooing the firm.
Another motivation for a move reflects the rise of the southern U.S. versus the failure of Michigan's sputtering economy, said Lansing economist Patrick Anderson.
"Financial institutions like to go where the action is in terms of building and borrowing and people. Charlotte is an attractive base," Anderson said.
While GMAC downplays the effects of any possible move to North Carolina's "Queen City," it would mean relocating its executives and other staff to Charlotte, and that city could see more future job growth than its Detroit office, Anderson said.
GMAC, founded in 1919 as a wholly owned subsidiary to General Motors Corp., employs 1,500 workers in Metro Detroit and occupies a tower of the Renaissance Center in downtown Detroit. In 2006, GM sold a 51 percent controlling interest to a consortium of investors led by Cerberus Capital Management LP, the private investment firm that also controls Chrysler LLC. Besides auto loans, GMAC also offers financing in the real estate, insurance and commercial sectors.
In December, the U.S. Treasury provided GMAC with $5 billion under the federal government's Troubled Asset Relief Program and it gained status as a bank holding company. Charlotte is a regional financial center and home to Bank of America.
"Charlotte has a deep pool of experienced talent in the banking industry and as we grow in that direction, it makes sense for us to expand our presence there," Simonetti said.
"GMAC employs about 200 in Charlotte at a call center and marketing operation. The company is looking for space to expand, Simonetti said. Charlotte media reports have said GMAC is looking for up to 100,000-square-feet of office space there.
"I am optimistic about our chances," of GMAC naming Charlotte as its headquarters, said Hugh McColl Jr., the former chairman of BofA, who years ago hired Molina at that institution. McColl is among a group of North Carolina business executives wooing GMAC. De Molina has hired at least one other executive, Robert Hull, with a Charlotte connection.
Michigan Economic Development Corp. officials said they are aware of Charlotte's overtures but can't comment on negotiations, spokesman Michael Shore said.