Amsouth Bancorp. has named Sloan Gibson to oversee its Tennessee, Mississippi, and Louisiana banking markets pending the completion of its planned merger with First American Corp. this fall.

Analysts said Amsouth chose Mr. Gibson because the Birmingham, Ala.-based banking company needs someone in charge who can clean up problems in the First American operation.

Mr. Gibson is currently Amsouth's chief financial officer.

"In some ways, Amsouth is purchasing damaged goods," said David Trone, a bank analyst at Credit Suisse First Boston. "They want to make sure they correct any issues."

Mr. Gibson, 46, will be based in Nashville, where First American is headquartered. One of the people he will oversee is Claire Tucker, who was recently named to head commercial banking after the takeover.

The merger is scheduled to close Oct. 1.

First American cut its 1999 earnings per share estimates to $2.70- $2.75 for the full-year 1999 from analysts' consensus estimates of $2.99. The banking company lost customers last year after it purchased Deposit Guaranty Corp. of Jackson, Miss.

In an interview Tuesday, Mr. Gibson said he expects First American to contribute 75 cents per share to the combined company's profits in its first quarter as part of Amsouth. "We have a strong commitment to at least deliver that," Mr. Gibson said.

He said First American already has made progress stemming customer flight. Since "we live and breath customer service, that will be an even stronger area of opportunity," Mr. Gibson said. He also anticipates increasing First American's credit portfolio, especially commercial loans, home equity loans, and auto loans made at dealerships.

"First American's challenge has been generating loan growth," Mr. Gibson said. "That is a big area of strength for us."

Analysts had high praise for Mr. Gibson. "Sloan was an integral part of Amsouth's improved financial performance over the last few years," Mr. Trone said. "He's a good candidate to watch over the First American franchise."

Mr. Gibson brings strong talent in commercial banking, having overseen that area at Amsouth for six years, said Lori Appelbaum, an analyst at Goldman, Sachs & Co. "He's a very respected CFO and commercial banker," she said.

Amsouth's net income rose 13.4% in the second quarter, to $74.2 million. While First American's profit more than doubled in the second quarter to $57.3 million, analysts attributed much of the gain to low spending ahead of the merger. First American has assets of $21.5 billion, while Amsouth has $20.6 billion.

This merger will clearly be an Amsouth-run show," said Robert Patten, a bank analyst at Lehman Brothers Inc. "I think the First American sales organization will be better under an Amsouth flag."

Samuel Tortorici, 34, will take Mr. Gibson's place as CFO, Amsouth said. Mr. Tortorici now runs Amsouth's central Alabama operations. He "is a rising star in the company,'' Mr. Trone said. "He's a talented guy who can fill in well for Sloan."

The appointments signal good early progress in the merger, analysts said. But it is too early to draw any definitive conclusions, they agreed. "We still need to see execution," said Jacqueline Reeves, an analyst at Putnam, Lovell, de Guardiola & Thornton Inc.

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