A Peacemaker Is Retiring From California League

After 31 years of keeping the California League of Savings Institutions on course, W. Dean Cannon has announced that he will retire from his posts as president and chief executive.

"The guy deserves a Purple Heart," said William J. Crawford, president of Guardian Savings and Loan Association, Long Beach, and former savings and loan commissioner of California. "It is very hard to hold a trade group together during a period like the savings and loan industry has been through."

Mr. Cannon, 62, has been president for 16 years. Earlier, he was the league's lobbyist in Sacramento. He is considered an institution in savings and loan circles and is only the fourth president in the California league's 101-year history. The league represents about one-third of the nation's savings and loan assets.

Conflicting Views

During the 1980s, some thrifts were strong advocates of deregulation; others thought thrifts should stick to mortgages. Tough times heightened the divisions between institutions: large and small, city and rural, federal and state charters, mutual and stock.

Mr. Cannon kept this disparate group together in California. "I didn't tell them what to do. I would get them in a room and get them talking. If we couldn't come up with a consensus, we would just back off," he said.

Despite the enormous transformation of the industry over the past three decades, Mr. Cannon believes the "biggest changes are going on right now, with this tremendous consolidation, which is driven by the difficulties that have beset the industry."

He traces the difficulties to the deregulation and high interest rates of 1980-1981, when thrifts were "paying 18% for money and their portfolios were not yielding close to that." The industry "has been trying to make up for it ever since," Mr. Cannon said.

After graduating from the University of South Carolina Law School, Mr. Cannon worked as an attorney at the now-defunct Federal Home Loan Bank Board in Washington. He later managed a community thrift in Beaufort, S.C., and eventually founded and operated the South Carolina Savings and Loan League.

Upbeat Finale

"He will be difficult to replace," said Ray Martin, chairman and chief executive of Coast Savings Financial, Los Angeles. "Dean is highly repected both by the industry and by legislators in Washington and Sacramento," said Mr. Martin, who is on the search committee.

The league will conduct a nationwide hunt for a replacement. Mr. Cannon will stay on until the transition has been completed.

Mr. Cannon said he's leaving on an up note for the thrift business. "I think the problems are bottoming out for the industry," he said.

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