msnbc.com staff and news service reports
updated 3/1/2005 6:50:24 PM ET 2005-03-01T23:50:24

Carly Fiorina, the celebrity chief executive recently ousted from the top spot at Hewlett-Packard, has emerged as a strong candidate to become the next president of the World Bank, a Bush administration official said Tuesday.

Fiorina abruptly joined a short list of candidates for the influential post, along with Randall Tobias, the White House’s global AIDS coordinator, and John Taylor, Treasury Under Secretary  for International Affairs. Her candidacy initially was reported by the online edition of The New York Times and then confirmed by The Associated Press, citing an unidentified official.

Although the World Bank is technically a United Nations agency with 184 member countries, the United States is considered the largest shareholder and traditionally has the right to appoint its president, while Europe provides the leader of the related International Monetary Fund.

James Wolfensohn, the current World Bank president, has announced his plans to step down when his second five-year term ends in May.

A spokesman for the Treasury Department declined to comment, saying the administration does not comment on personnel appointments in advance.

The Financial Times reported Tuesday that deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz also was on the short list for the World Bank job, but the Times story knocked down that speculation. The Times said Wolfowitz was expected to issue a statement indicating he had been asked to stay on at the Pentagon, where he has been one of the chief architects of the White House policy in the war on terror, including the decision to invade Iraq.

The World Bank provides billions of dollars a year in grants, loans and technical assistance to developing countries with the aim of fighting global poverty.

Fiorina, who walked away from her last job with a severance package worth $45 million,  has little experience fighting poverty but would bring to the job an element of glamour as well as her extensive management experience as one of the most powerful women in the corporate world.

Fiorina's spokeswoman, Kathy Fitzgerald, did not immediately return a phone call left on her answering machine by The Associated Press.

Fiorina served as chairman and chief executive of the Silicon Valley tech giant for nearly six years, shepherding the company through a bruising battle to acquire rival computer maker Compaq Computer. Prior to that she directed the spin-off of Lucent Technologies from AT&T.

As head of Hewlett-Packard, she became one of the most visible and well-known  corporate chief executives, running a company with $80 billion in revenues and 150,000 employees.

But there was lingering bitterness over the proxy fight required to execute the Compaq deal, and she was finally forced out over disagreements about her management style.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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