The White House on Friday announced that Jeffrey Zients, former acting director of the Office of Management and Budget under President Obama, would replace top economic adviser Gene Sperling in January.
“Before heading up the Office of Management and Budget, Jeff spent decades as a successful entrepreneur in the private sector," Obama said in a statement Friday. "Jeff has a sterling reputation as a business leader, and he earned the admiration and respect of everyone he worked with during his four years in leadership positions at the Office of Management and Budget."
Praising the outgoing Sperling, Obama said, "Over the past four and a half years, Gene has been one of my closest advisors and a close friend. Gene understands better than anybody that our top priority as a nation is making sure that our economy once again works for working Americans."
As director of the White House National Economic Council, Sperling was a central voice in the administration’s push to bolster a slowly rebounding economy and a key figure in budget battles with Republicans on Capitol Hill.
Zients, who amassed a vast personal fortune as a management consultant, was named a chief performance officer by the White House in 2009. He was tasked with finding ways to reduce the costs of government operations.
Before then, Zients had no experience in the government sector. Zients is the founder of Portfolio Logic, an investment firm.
Obama twice named Zients acting director of the Office of Management and Budget. His name has been floated for various Cabinet positions, including Commerce secretary.
Zients’ appointment does not require Senate confirmation.
However, Zients has one high-profile opponent in Congress: Sen. Max Baucus, D-Mont. Zients called for a reshuffling of government functions that would have taken jurisdiction away from Baucus’ Senate Finance Committee.
Sperling served in the top economic post for almost three years.
A long-time adviser to President Bill Clinton, Sperling could aid former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton if she pursues the presidency in 2016.
Many expected that Zients would return to the Obama administration in a prominent role.
“There’s no question that Jeff’s skill and versatility have served the American people very well,” Obama said, when Sylvia Mathews Burwell took over as OMB director earlier this year. “I expect it will continue to serve us well in the future.”