SARA LEE’S BRYAN SEEN AS POSSIBLE COMMERCE CHIEF
Byline: Jim Ostroff
WASHINGTON — John H. Bryan, Sara Lee’s chairman and chief executive officer, is on a short list of candidates to become the next secretary of commerce, sources confirmed Friday.
Also being considered to succeed Mickey Kantor are William Daley, 48, a Chicago attorney who headed President Clinton’s successful 1993 effort to win Senate passage of the North American Free Trade Agreement, and West Virginia Gov. Gaston Caperton.
Kantor has said privately he would stay on in the second Clinton term only if he were named attorney general or chief of staff.
Bryan, 60, is a “nominal Republican,” sources said, who supported Clinton’s 1992 bid for the presidency, participated in his Little Rock economic summit and supported him in this year’s race.
Within the trade community, Bryan is known to support protectionism for U.S.-made apparel and oppose import restraints on sweeteners, a vital ingredient in Sara Lee’s food products. Bob Dole had long fought to retain sugar import restrictions.
Sara Lee’s board is stocked with several high-powered Democrats, including Clinton confidante Vernon Jordan; Rozanne Ridgway, a Carter administration defense official, and Newton Minnow, President Kennedy’s FCC chairman.
Bryan is a member of the influential Business Roundtable and a director of various Fortune 500 firms, including General Motors Corp., Amoco Corp. and First National Bank of Chicago.
A Sara Lee spokesman said Friday, “Mr. Bryan has said many times he has no Potomac fever and he intends to retire as chairman by age 65.”
Daley, the brother of Chicago Mayor Richard Daley, was given high marks by the White House for his handling of the NAFTA lobbying effort, which seemed destined for defeat when he began campaigning. Daley also has been mentioned as a possible successor to Federico Pena, who is expected to be leaving as transportation secretary. Daley unsuccessfully sought that post in 1992.
Caperton, 56, retires in December as West Virginia’s governor after eight years. Clinton has touted Caperton’s work as founder of the West Virginia Education Fund. Daley and Caperton could not be reached for comment.