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Members on List of Likely Finalists for Roundtable Job

Correction Appended

The next head of the Business Roundtable will be named soon after the Thanksgiving holiday, a source familiar with the process has confirmed.

A Business Roundtable spokesman was not available Friday to discuss the possible successors to recently departed president and CEO John Castellani, who left the organization in mid-July to become president and CEO at the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America.

At PhRMA, Castellani replaced former Rep. Billy Tauzin (R-La.), who resigned earlier this year and is expected to start his own lobbying shop. Korn/Ferry International is in charge of the search for Castellani’s replacement, but the firm is keeping tight-lipped on the hire.

“The search is progressing with the goal of having it completed sooner rather than later,” Korn/Ferry Managing Director Nels Olson told Roll Call late last week.

Olson declined to comment on possible candidates for the top position at the Business Roundtable. The trade association, which represents the CEOs of Bank of America Corp., Boeing Co., Caterpillar Inc., Dow Chemical Co. and other large corporations, played a key role in last year’s health care debate and enjoys perhaps the closest ties to the Obama White House among the big downtown business groups.

According to White House logs, Castellani has visited the White House 16 times since President Barack Obama was sworn in on Jan. 20, 2009.

In replacing Castellani at the Roundtable, the CEOs may well turn to a retired Member, downtown sources said. They claimed that outgoing Sen. Judd Gregg (R-N.H.) is considered a top candidate. Based on tax forms that show Castellani’s compensation, the job is expected to pay more than $5 million annually.

A former House Member and Granite State governor, Gregg sits on the Budget, Banking and Appropriations committees and was Obama’s second choice to be Commerce secretary, a job now held by former Washington Gov. Gary Locke (D). Gregg later declined Obama’s nomination, but the president’s nod may still hold sway with exacting CEOs who may be wary of Gregg’s lack of experience in the private sector.

“If Sen. Gregg met the bar for the Obama administration to be Commerce secretary, obviously he’s well-liked in the business community,” said Ivan Adler, a recruiter for the McCormick Group. “He would be a natural bridge between the Obama administration and business.”

A Gregg spokesman did not respond to a request for comment.

Nick Calio, Citigroup’s executive vice president for global government affairs, is also considered a possible Castellani replacement. Calio was a top lobbyist for the administrations of George W. Bush and George H.W. Bush and is a former contract lobbyist with the defunct O’Brien Calio firm.

According to Calio’s official Citi biography, “the New York Times described him as a ‘forceful broker — not only between the White House and Congress, but also among Cabinet officials’ and ‘credit[ed] him with a major role in the biggest White House legislative victories on Capitol Hill, among them the resolution authorizing use of force against Iraq, the creation of the Homeland Security Department, an education bill and a major tax cut.’”

Calio did not respond to a request for comment.

Business Roundtable Executive Director Larry Burton, who has run the trade association on an interim basis since Castellani’s departure this summer, may well become his permanent replacement. While perhaps lacking the bold-faced splash of a former Member, Burton, a Republican, has solid downtown credentials, including numerous lobbying jobs in Washington and abroad for BP.

Burton was also a Hill staffer for Alaska Republicans Rep. Don Young and former Sen. Ted Stevens, who died in a plane crash earlier this year.

Retiring Blue Dog Reps. John Tanner and Bart Gordon, both Tennessee Democrats, are also considered possible candidates for the position. Tanner, who served 11 terms, sits on the House Ways and Means Committee, while the 13-term Gordon is chairman of the Science and Technology Committee and sits on the Energy and Commerce panel.

Gordon’s and Tanner’s offices did not respond to a request for comment. 

Since Castellani’s departure, many K Street handicappers considered American Chemistry Council President and CEO Cal Dooley a top contender for the Business Roundtable position. But on Friday, the former seven-term Member from California and New Democrat Coalition co-founder all but eliminated the possibility.

A Dooley staffer said her boss is not leaving his post at the trade association, which represents petrochemical firms such as BASF, Exxon Mobil Corp., Dow and DuPont Co. Since leaving the House in 2004, Dooley also ran both the Grocery Manufacturers Association and Food Products Association.

“Mr. Dooley is very happy at the American Chemistry Council and is not interested in making a change,” spokeswoman Anne Kolton said Friday.

Correction: Nov. 26, 2010

Sen. Judd Gregg was incorrectly identified as Obama’s first choice for Commerce secretary. He was the second choice after Bill Richardson dropped out before Obama’s inauguration.

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