BankAmerica's Finance Chief, Once a CEO Hopeful, Resigns

By Crockett, Barton | American Banker, November 15, 1995 | Go to article overview

BankAmerica's Finance Chief, Once a CEO Hopeful, Resigns


Crockett, Barton, American Banker


BankAmerica Corp. vice chairman and chief financial officer Lewis W. Coleman announced his resignation Tuesday, effective Dec. 1.

Mr. Coleman, 53, was at BankAmerica since 1986 and a member of chairman and chief executive officer Richard Rosenberg's inner circle. He lost out to David A. Coulter in the competition to succeed Mr. Rosenberg, who is retiring next year.

The bank said group executive vice president Michael E. O'Neill, 49, will be the new chief financial officer. Mr. O'Neill, an alumnus of Continental Bank Corp. in Chicago, which BankAmerica acquired in 1994, is also expected to be elected a vice chairman.

The change is the highest-level shake-up since the surprise announcement on Aug. 8 that Mr. Coulter, who has a wholesale banking background, would rise to the top job.

Some BankAmerica watchers foresee other departures, possibly including vice chairman Luke Helms, who in recent weeks was passed over by one of his peers, Thomas Peterson, for the company's top retail banking post.

The change in CFO is not seen as heralding any major strategic shift, though Mr. Coleman was seen as one of the company's most able executives and, until the Coulter promotion, as the front-runner for CEO.

Mr. O'Neill said in an interview that he shares Mr. Coleman's belief that bank acquisitions at current prices are "hard to reconcile with achieving shareholder value." He also agrees that BankAmerica could make a go of nationwide banking through alternative delivery systems rather than extensive brick-and-mortar branch networks.

Otherwise, Mr. O'Neill said he had little specific to say about his future plans. "The first thing I want to do is educate myself on this company," he said.

Mr. Coleman's resignation had been expected. But the fact that he left before getting another job was taken by one source as a sign of chilly relations in the new leadership ranks.

A source close to Mr. Coleman said he understood that Mr. Rosenberg had never told Mr. Coleman why he was passed over for CEO. According to the source, Mr. Coleman thus found it uncomfortable to stay on the job.

Mr. Coleman was not available for comment Tuesday. …

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