A shipping industry executive considered to be the front-runner to fill the top job at the State Ports Authority is resigning from his position in the private sector.
The move comes less than two weeks before the SPA is expected to name its new chief executive officer.
Though neither the SPA nor Jim Newsome will publicly discuss his expected hiring as the agency's CEO, an internal memo from Newsome's current employer announced his departure.
The "appointments" notice from German-based container carrier Hapag-Lloyd said Newsome requested his contract as president of the America division end on Aug. 31 "to pursue an opportunity outside the firm."
The notice obtained by The Post and Courier continues with a quote from Newsome: "I am very grateful to Hapag-Lloyd for appreciating the reason for my decision and for the wonderful opportunities I have been provided in what have been 12 very satisfying years."
SPA public relations director Byron Miller would not comment on Newsome specifically. Miller said the agency looks forward to continuing its CEO hiring process, which "attracted a great amount of interest from some tremendous candidates."
"Until the board acts and a contract is signed, it remains an active hiring and selection process," he said.
Newsome declined to comment about the Hapag-Lloyd memo. He could start at the SPA as early as Sept. 1.
Board member Bill Stern, chairman of the search committee, said the full board will approve a new hire at its June 23 meeting. The 13-member search committee consisting of current and former board members, plus business leaders from around the state, paid executive search firm Boyden $97,500 to launch an international inquiry.
The group considered more than 100 applicants, narrowed that list to seven and then interviewed five.
The SPA has not disclosed the identities of any candidates and has not yet responded to a Freedom of Information Act request from The Post and Courier seeking the five names.
Newsome joined Hapag-Lloyd in 1997 as senior vice president of the Southern Area. He worked his way up to president of the America division in January.
Newsome will be replaced in that role by Wolfgang Freese, who is senior vice president of the Gulf-Pacific area, according to the memo. Newsome was the first non-German to head the company's North American operations.
If he is offered and accepts the SPA top job, Newsome would begin work with two lingering questions: Will lawmakers override Gov. Mark Sanford's veto later this month to restructure the ports authority? And will negotiations succeed in keeping what business remains from container carrier Maersk Line, the Port of Charleston's top customer?
A Savannah native, Newsome previously spent about a decade working for the former Nedlloyd Lines and another decade before that with Strachan Shipping Co.
The SPA is seeking to replace Bernard S. Groseclose Jr., who resigned during a January performance evaluation shortly after Maersk announced its intentions to pull all services by the end of its local contract. Groseclose earned a $264,000 salary.
SPA board member John Hassell took over as interim chief executive but said from his first day that he only intended to fill the position until the agency found a permanent replacement.