Postcards

How the power players do it - by Fortune senior editor at large Patricia Sellers

This week: Moves at BofA, Best Buy and beyond

January 23, 2009: 4:41 PM ET

This was a week of transitions. Barack Obama. Hillary Clinton. A little-known Congresswoman named Kirsten Gillibrand, who beat Caroline Kennedy for Hillary's Senate seat and reminded us that power and privilege don't mix well these days.

John Thain's ouster at Bank of America (BAC) also reminded us of that. I met the former Merrill Lynch boss briefly only three times. He seemed like Clark Kent: solid, a bit boring, and cryptic. Now we know who he is. The $87,000 rug and $35,000 commode on legs. The office bling and Thain's bids for big bonuses at BofA bare his greed and also his cluelessness.

Thain's onetime boss at Goldman Sachs (GS), Hank Paulson, moved on as well. As my colleague Julie Schlosser reported this week, the former Treasury Secretary (king of TARP!) is heading to Johns Hopkins' School of Advanced International Studies (SAIS). I got to know Paulson when he was Goldman's CEO. I even snorkeled with him in Palau, an island nation in the Pacific, for a profile about Hank Paulson the environmentalist. Paulson is green to the core. Pre-Treasury, he chaired the Nature Conservancy. I bet he'll eventually do something significant to help save the environment.

While CEO ousters are at record levels, a smooth turnover stood out: Brian Dunn is succeeding Brad Anderson at Best Buy (BBY). Anderson is one of the good chiefs: a "failed seminarian," as he calls himself, who dropped out of the Lutheran seminary, joined an electronics retailer as an entry-level sales person and rose to the top job three decades later. He helped save Best Buy from near-bankruptcy in the mid-90s and built it into a $36-billion category killer. Best Buy has left Circuit City in the dust--bankrupt and shuttering. Credit Suisse retail analyst Gary Balter suggests a new gig for Anderson: "Given his proven ability to turn around an over-levered nearly bankrupt company, if President Obama hasn't yet filled that Commerce Secretary slot, maybe he should be looking in the Twin Cities for someone who has experience that would seem quite valuable in Washington these days."

Powerful women on the move this week: Beth Wilkinson, Fannie Mae's EVP and general counsel for two years until last September, is joining law firm Paul Weiss. She's an ace litigator. In fact, her skills helped her meet her husband: In 1997, she was prosecuting Oklahoma City bombers Timothy McVeigh and Terry Nichols. NBC's David Gregory was there, reporting on the trial for NBC. They fell in love. Now they have a son and twins, one daughter and one son. Gregory, of course, is the new host of NBC's Meet the Press.

Jami Miscik, who was Lehman Brothers' global head of sovereign risk until the company collapsed, started this week as vice chairman of Henry Kissinger's firm, Kissinger Associates. Pre-Lehman, Miscik headed the CIA's intelligence directorate--which made her a fascinating profile subject in my 2007 story, "The Spy Goes to Wall Street."

And speaking of high-powered advisors, will Cisco (CSCO) chief technology officer Padmasree Warrior become President Obama's CTO? The buzz is that Warrior, who joined Cisco from Motorola a year ago, is a candidate. I hear that the White House position, which is new, is about advising the President on tech strategy, not policy. For the first BlackBerry President, a must-do.

Finally, elsewhere in Silicon Valley, Jane Shaw is the new non-executive chairman of Intel (INTC), as Craig Barrett retires. (Heading to Montana, Craig? Barrett and his wife, Barbara, who was President Bush's ambassador to Finland, run Triple Creek Ranch up there.) Meanwhile, Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg, No. 34 on the Fortune Most Powerful Women list, has joined the Starbucks (SBUX) board. Maybe some social-networking strategy pointers will help Howard Schultz shore up his sales.

Enjoy your weekend!pattie-signature15

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