Charles R. Rinehart, chairman and chief executive officer of H.F. Ahmanson & Co., was not about to spend a lot of time talking to a group of investors about the wars he has lost.

Instead, Mr. Rinehart used a presentation at last week's Montgomery Securities conference to play down the nasty fight in which he was embroiled to acquire Great Western Financial Corp. this year.

Perhaps because he had to watch Chatsworth, Calif.-based Great Western go to a white knight, Washington Mutual Inc., and Kerry Killinger, its chairman, president, and chief executive officer, Mr. Rinehart referred last week to the takeover battle as nothing more than an "interesting event."

In his presentation, Mr. Rinehart emphasized the strong performance of Ahmanson's stock, which he attributed to growth in the Irwindale, Calif.- based company's business lending and cash management operations. That business has grown significantly, he said, since the thrift picked up personnel and branches from First Interstate Bancorp. after that bank was acquired by Wells Fargo & Co. in a hostile merger.

Mr. Rinehart added that Ahmanson plans to do more home equity lending.

He said he would consider pursuing other acquisitions in California of thrifts, banks, or consumer finance companies. But he added, "We're not going to be stampeded. We have plenty of opportunity on a standalone basis."

In a thinly veiled attack on Washington Mutual and Mr. Killinger, Mr. Rinehart criticized companies that grow chiefly through acquisition.

"Our view on acquisitions is, they can enhance the basic plan, but they cannot be the basic plan," he said. "Because if that's it, sooner or later you'll overpay."

He added that he has doubts about Mr. Killinger's claim that Washington Mutual's integration of Great Western is proceeding without a hitch.

"We still think that will not be an easy acquisition. You need people on the ground where the customers are, to hold their hands through the merger." he said. "We've seen substantial outflows of people from (Great Western), some of whom work for us now," he added.

Speaking with reporters after his presentation, Mr. Rinehart said he was unconcerned with long-standing market speculation that big banking companies outside the state are preparing to acquire California banks and thrifts. "We've heard that for a long time," he said, "but we haven't seen much, have we?"

Subscribe Now

Access to authoritative analysis and perspective and our data-driven report series.

14-Day Free Trial

No credit card required. Complete access to articles, breaking news and industry data.