Is Obama Losing His Top Economic Adviser?

White House Summit On Financial Capability and Empowerment
Joshua Roberts/Bloomberg via Getty ImagesGene Sperling, director of the National Economic Council.

By Charlie Gasparino

The Obama Administration could be planning a significant shakeup in its economic team, the FOX Business Network has learned.

Washington insiders say Gene Sperling, the director of the National Economic Council, is telling people he may soon leave the post as one of President Obama's top economic advisers.

These same people say that high on the short list of replacements is Jeffrey Zients, a businessman and former acting director of the Office of Management and Budget.

A White House spokesman would not deny Sperling's departure or that Zients is the leading candidate to take his job.

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Sperling is a long-time Democratic economic operative with close ties to former Clinton Treasury Secretary and Citigroup (C) executive Robert Rubin. Though he has spent most of his career in government he has also earned income as an adviser to the big investment bank Goldman Sachs (GS), and has received speaking fees from various financial firms.

Senior executives on Wall Street say that, if he leaves the Obama Administration, Sperling will likely take a private sector job. He didn't return numerous calls for comment. Friends note that Sperling's wife, Allison Abner, is a successful television writer who recently moved to Los Angeles full-time and Sperling is expected to join her soon.

Abner was a writer and story editor on the highly successful NBC television series "West Wing" created by Aaron Sorkin, where Sperling was also a writer and consultant after his days in the Clinton administration.

It is unclear what impact Sperling's departure will have on White House economic policy. The National Economic Council was created during the Clinton years, and had considerable clout in formulating domestic economic policy. Past directors include Rubin, Lawrence Lindsey during the Bush presidency, and Lawrence Summers, whom Sperling replaced.

But White House sources say President Obama's closest adviser on economic policy is senior adviser Valerie Jarrett, which has caused some friction. For example, the president's former chief of staff William Daley abruptly resigned from the administration last year after clashing with Jarrett.

Zients, meanwhile, is considered someone whom president Obama holds in high regard. He resigned as acting OMB chief in April and since then has been living with his family in South Africa, though a person close to him says he has now returned to the U.S.

Zients didn't respond to emails and telephone calls for comment.

Fox News' Ed Henry contributed to this story.

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