Colonial BancGroup of Montgomery, Ala., has a new president.

Purser L. "Mac" McLeod Jr., 48, has succeeded Robert E. Lowder, 55, in the job. Mr. Lowder, who founded the company in 1981, remains chairman and CEO. Mr. McLeod was chief executive officer of Colonial's Montgomery bank.

Although Mr. McLeod is younger, it is not clear that he is being groomed to take the helm of the $6 billion-asset company. Mr. Lowder is "the personality that drives our company, and that is not going to change," Mr. McLeod said.

"I view myself in a supporting role helping him grow the company."

As president of the holding company Mr. McLeod has taken on oversight of human resources, retail banking, data processing, electronic banking, operations, and security.

He also will oversee a newly established private banking unit based in Miami that is positioned to take advantage of South Florida's concentration of wealthy people.

"That is a whole new line of business for us that we think has a great deal of potential," Mr. McLeod said.

His promotion will let Mr. Lowder concentrate on mergers and acquisitions and on credit-quality issues, matters high on his priority list, company officials said.

Mr. Lowder, a big believer in hands-on management, had long made weekly plane trips to keep tabs on Colonial's offices, which now total 181, in Alabama, Florida, Georgia, and Tennessee. But the company's aggressive acquisition program has made that kind of pace difficult to maintain. Colonial has closed eight deals in 1997, and four acquisitions are pending.

Though he has never before shared power to the extent Mr. McLeod's promotion suggests, Mr. Lowder stopped short of declaring Mr. McLeod his heir apparent, and said he intends to spend many more years at the helm.

"I may retire before he does," Mr. McLeod said.

Colonial named R. Leon Hill to succeed Mr. McLeod as president and CEO at Colonial Bank Montgomery. Mr. Hill was CEO of Colonial's bank in Baldwin County, Ala.

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