Obama's Search for Commerce Secretary Could Snag Google's Schmidt
To fill a new void at the top of the Commerce Department, the White House is reportedly thinking about tapping Google (NASDAQ:GOOG) CEO Eric Schmidt or former Pfizer (NYSE:PFE) CEO Jeffrey Kindler.
The consideration of high-profile CEOs for the Cabinet position comes as the Obama administration has taken a more conciliatory tone towards the business community following months of intense battles. Last year Obama tapped Bill Daley, a former JPMorgan Chase (NYSE:JPM) executive, to become his new chief of staff.
According to Bloomberg, Schmidt and Kindler are candidates to lead the Commerce Department after Gary Locke steps down to become the U.S. ambassador to China. President Barack Obama is also said to be considering Ron Kirk, the U.S.’s trade representative, for the position.
“The president will consider a range of qualified candidates, but we are at a very early stage in the process and no decisions have been made,” a White House spokesperson told Bloomberg News.
When Schmidt, 55, announced plans in January to step down from the top job at search giant Google rumors swirled the Obama backer would be headed to Washington. Schmidt, who gave $25,000 to Obama’s inaugural committee and regularly meets with the president, is to take the title of “executive chairman” in April, but few believe he will stay there long.
“I think this is simply a steppingstone for him to go to Washington. He would love to be Treasury secretary,” former GOP presidential candidate Steve Forbes told FOX Business in January.
As the CEO of one of the largest tech companies in the world, Schmidt, who is worth an estimated $5.45 billion, clearly has the credentials to lead the Commerce Department, which is a Cabinet department that employs more than 140,000 people and uses its $14 billion budget to promote economic growth.
Forbes suggested Obama could also put Schmidt in charge of U.S. trade to entice him to take the Commerce spot. Schmidt, who hasn't been shy about his views on renewable energy, could also be a candidate to lead the Energy Department should there be an opening there.
Kindler, also 55, served as CEO of Pfizer, which is the largest pharmaceutical company in the world, from 2006 until leaving in December. Obama appointed him to a presidential advisory board on U.S. trade last year.
Whomever Obama taps at Commerce, the new leader will help spearhead the administration’s efforts to double U.S. exports to $3.1 trillion within five years.