Huntington Mortgage Co. has again replaced its chief executive.

The Columbus, Ohio, home-lending subsidiary of Huntington Bancshares has announced that R. Frederick Taylor has taken over the reins of the bank's mortgage operations.

Mr. Taylor, president and chief executive at little-known Liberty Mortgage Corp., Atlanta, replaces Robert W. Lucas, who returns to Huntington National Bank as executive vice president and group executive.

This is Huntington Mortgage's third set of major executive changes in about a year.

Last January, Mr. Lucas took over as president and chief executive from John T. Williams, who left the mortgage bank for personal reasons. By mid- 1994, the entire executive management team was replaced except one longtime former bank executive.

Two other executives have also been shuffled within the last few weeks, according to the company.

Gordon R. Rogers, who was a senior vice president in charge of secondary marketing at the mortgage company, has become comptroller of Huntington National Bank. Gregg Christenson, chief financial officer, has left the bank, but no reasons were given.

Mr. Rogers and Mr. Christenson were at Huntington Mortgage for about a year. No replacements have been named, a spokesman said.

Huntington Mortgage has been reeling from poor performance for at least a year, like much of the rest of the industry. The 78th-largest servicer has been forced to cut its staff size significantly. Last June alone, it laid off 119 employees.

Huntington originated $2.2 billion of loans last year, down 64% from the 1993 level. Its servicing portfolio has shrunk 44% since the end of 1993 to $5.4 billion.

But Huntington's woes seemed to go deeper than those of other lenders. Last summer, discontent at Huntington Mortgage boiled over as complaints about managerial and policy changes created "turmoil," Mr. Lucas said at the time.

It was reported last month that Huntington would ditch some or all of its out-of-state production network. So far, Huntington has sold only its Massachusetts operations.

But Zuheir Sofia, Huntington Bancshares' president and chief operating officer, defended the mortgage company's performance, despite its $10 million loss in the third quarter.

He said it was faring no worse than other lenders. "It's a tough time for the industry," he said. "Anyone who tells me it isn't tough, I would like to talk to them."

Unlike some lenders, Huntington is "taking the high road" by staying in the mortgage banking business, he said. He said the company has had to cut down on its expenses, "but this is the nature of the beast." The bank remains committed to its home lending unit.

He said the "turmoil" of last summer was simply friction between employees and executives who were trying to implement cross-selling. "This is a transformation," he said. "I find that they (employees) are very receptive (now)."

He said Huntington had made great advances at its mortgage company. He said the company has established a close bond between the lender and the bank that could prove very profitable because Mr. Lucas was able to familiarize himself with the residential lending, and during a very difficult period, Mr. Sofia said.

Mr. Taylor, though not well-known in the mortgage industry, is a talented replacement for Mr. Lucas, Mr. Sophia said. He said Mr. Taylor has a great understanding of the mortgage process.

Mr. Sophia said Huntington "could probably attract someone from a larger company," but that was not a hiring condition.

"Small is beautiful as far as I am concerned," he said.

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