CHICAGO - BankAmerica Corp.'s chairman has tried to put the kibosh on rumors that the company is looking outside for his successor, or considering acquisitions of retail banks in the Northeast or Chicago.
In a press briefing preceding the annual shareholder meeting Thursday of the nation's second-largest bank company, Richard M. Rosenberg, 65, said the board is planning to hire his replacement from within the company.
He added that directors had not hired a recruiting firm to search for an outside successor, as reported in the San Francisco Chronicle.
Mr. Rosenberg declined to say anything more about the succession, except to reiterate his previous statement that he plans to stay on at least through the end of the year.
BankAmerica-watchers have singled out Lewis W. Coleman, currently vice chairman and chief financial officer, as the most likely successor to Mr. Rosenberg. Reinforcing this view, Mr. Coleman was the only BankAmerica executive joining Mr. Rosenberg at the press briefing and the only one other than the corporate secretary to sit beside him at the annual meeting.
In the press briefing, Mr. Rosenberg also addressed the issue of acquisitions with unusual candor.
Specifically, he said that in the Chicago area, where BankAmerica is a leader in wholesale banking by virtue of its acquisition last year of Continental Bank Corp., the institution is not looking to buy retail banks.
Instead, he said, "if we expand retail in Chicago, it will be through unconventional means," namely, by selling computerized electronic banking services.
Buying "brick and mortar" branch networks is not a good value now for BankAmerica's shareholders, he added.
Mr. Rosenberg also said no acquisitions were being considered "at this point" of banks in the Northeast. This would seem to squelch recent reports that $218 billion-asset BankAmerica is among possible suitors for either Chase Manhattan Corp. or Bank of Boston Corp.
Both statements went beyond the company's usual reluctance to comment on its acquisition plans.
At the shareholder meeting held later the same day, Mr. Rosenberg promised that BankAmerica would examine a proposal to end an executive compensation plan that was said to be a poison pill against takeovers.
A preliminary tally at the meeting indicated the proposal was narrowly defeated, with 48.5% of the ballots for it and 49.58% against. "Because of the extremely close vote," Mr. Rosenberg said, the board would address the issue soon.