Ahmanson Shifts Lending Exec

H.F. Ahmanson & Co., the nation's largest thrift company, has reassigned its head of loan originations to oversee foreclosed properties.

The shift of Dallis Brewer follows a marked rise in the company's nonperforming assets, to 2.22% of total assets in March from 1.19% a year earlier.

While some experts see the move as a demotion tied to deteriorating credit quality, others call it a sign that Ahmanson is moving to manage its foreclosed properties aggressively. Mr. Brewer will retain his title as executive vice president.

Charles Rinehart, president of Ahmanson, is leading the company's massive originations effort until a successor to Mr. Brewer is found.

Los Angeles-based Ahmanson wrote $13 billion of loans last year, the vast majority being single-family mortgages.

An Ahmanson spokeswoman said the reassignment was triggered when Jay Pauly - previously head of foreclosed property and real estate development - began concentrating on the company's long-planned withdrawal from development.

That created a post overseeing foreclosed properties, or "other real estate owned" - an increasingly important area as the recession drags on. As of March, Ahmanson held $289.6 million worth of the properties, up from $156.4 million a year ealier.

"It was felt that Dallis could provide the necessary expertise," the spokeswoman said. The reassignment was announced internally late last week.

Peter Treadway, a thrift analyst at Smith Barney, Harris Upham & Co., said, "It looks like they view the OREO problem with some seriousness and have taken one of their top guys and put in him charge of it."

In addition to overseeing the foreclosed properties, Mr. Brewer will continue to manage the company's origination of apartment-building loans, the spokeswoman said.

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