A. B. "Buzzy" Krongard, the former chairman and chief executive of Alex. Brown Inc., was named executive director of the Central Intelligence Agency yesterday, the organization's third-highest ranking position.
Krongard, who gave up a $4 million-a-year job plus bonus three years ago to become counselor to CIA Director George J. Tenet, will run the agency's day-to-day operations.
"I couldn't be any happier. I am ecstatic," said Krongard, 64, who starts the job March 26. "It gives me a chance to contribute more, which is something I want to do because I so deeply believe in the mission of the agency."
Krongard will report to Tenet and John E. McLaughlin, the CIA's deputy director.
"Their job is to say, 'Take the wagon west.' My job is to ramrod that wagon train," he said. "I have complete line responsibility."
The new job differs greatly from Krongard's role as counselor, in which he worked on a project-by-project basis. "It was more discrete," he said. "As things came up, I would get involved."
Tenet praised Krongard. "I have treasured his wise counsel and no-nonsense businesslike views on how to address the challenges facing the intelligence community," he said.
He said Krongard is the "perfect individual ... to bring the management of the agency to the next level of performance."
When Tenet was confirmed as director in 1997, the agency was "not in the best shape," Krongard said.
Krongard brought with him ideas on making the agency run more smoothly and efficiently. A strategic plan was developed, positions such as chief financial officer were created and morale has improved, he said.
"This machine ain't broken. Ain't broken by any stretch of the imagination," Krongard said.
Colleagues are impressed with his promotion, but not surprised.
"Wow," said Richard Franyo, managing director at Deutsche Banc Alex. Brown Inc. "It is amazing. It is like a midlife crisis that worked out."
H. Furlong Baldwin, chairman of Baltimore-based Mercantile Bankshares Corp., said one of Krongard's strengths is managing large groups. "I'm sure his general management skills would be of great value," he said.
Krongard is credited with helping to build Alex. Brown into a prized niche investment banking firm. He also played a key role in selling the company to Bankers Trust Corp. in September 1997.
Five months after the deal was completed, he gave up his vice chairman position and $4 million pay package to join the CIA. After his departure, Bankers Trust stumbled and along with its Alex. Brown unit was sold to Germany's Deutsche Bank AG. in June 1999.
The son of a middle-class suit-maker, Krongard could be a perfect spy novel character. He once punched a great white shark in the jaw. He is an accomplished martial artist and owns a small arsenal of guns. He has also trained with a police SWAT team.
"I'm sure it is his dream come true," Franyo said.
To avoid the long commute, Krongard lives in McLean, Va., but will continue to maintain his mansion in Baltimore County.
"I will still keep the house and get back there when I can," said Krongard, whose wife, Patricia, died last June.
Krongard said he left the private sector to give something back to the country, and after three years, he still has a debt to pay.
"If I spent the next 100 years, I wouldn't be halfway there," he said. "This gives me a chance to balance the scales."