Richardson bowed off because of the unanswered questions about the federal probe in New Mexico into how his political donors got a lucrative government contract.
Obama has accepted the withdrawal of Richardson, who is the governor of New Mexico, with deep regret.
This is being seen as the first blow to the incoming Obama administration even before it could take off. If confirmed, Richardson would have been the highest ranking Hispanic in the Obama team.
In an e-mail statement, issued to the media on Sunday, Richardson said he decided to withdraw from the nomination of Secretary of Commerce because of 'a pending investigation of a company that has done business with New Mexico state government, promises to extend for several weeks or perhaps, even months'.
Media reports said CDR Financial Products Inc, a California-based company, won nearly US $ 1.5 million in contracts from New Mexico Finance Authority in 2004 after its president and founder David Rubin gave thousands to Richardson.