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Obama taps management expert as chief economic adviser

President Barack Obama announced Friday he would name Jeffrey Zients, a management expert who has led his budget office, as his new top economic adviser from January 1.

Zients, who twice served as acting budget director under Obama as well as the government's chief performance officer, will replace Gene Sperling as director of the National Economic Council.

The appointment comes as Obama faces a constant fight with Republicans over boosting the economy and cutting the government's debt and deficit over the final three years of his administration.

"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," Obama said in a statement.

"His advice will be critical as we keep moving this country forward and building an economy where everyone who works hard can get ahead."

Sperling, also a veteran of the Clinton White House in the 1990s, is leaving in January after nearly three years on the job advising Obama on the intersection of economic politics and policy.

Obama praised Sperling for having "helped us avoid a second Great Depression" and being a driving force behind the recovery from the 2007-2009 recession.

Zients (rhymes with "science"), 46, is a multimillionaire who made his fortune in management consulting.

He started out, ironically, at Bain & Co, once led by Obama's 2012 Republican election challenger Mitt Romney.

He then helped build the once-small Advisory Board Company and its spinoff, the Corporate Executive Board, into large and influential management advisory firms.

In 2002 Fortune magazine named him one of the country's richest under-40 businessmen, then a 35-year-old worth $149 million after the public sale of the Advisory Board Co.

He also ran investment firm Portfolio Logic before joining the White House in 2009 as chief performance officer, recruited to help tame government spending as the new Obama administration faced exploding bailout costs that had taken the budget deficit to $1.4 trillion.

Zients took a break from the administration earlier this year after Sylvia Mathews Burwell was named as permanent director at the Office of Management and Budget.

He had been rumored to be on Obama's shortlist to be US Trade Representative, the country's top foreign trade negotiator, but ultimately another top White House aide, Michael Froman, took that job.

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