Francis G. Seabrook, chief executive of Barnett Mortgage Co., helped engineer an innovative joint venture with BancBoston Mortgage Corp. earlier this year.

But it appears he engineered himself out of a job in the process. This week, the 25-year veteran mortgage lender said he was "tired" after putting together the new company, HomeSide Lending Inc., and would take early retirement at yearend.

"I'm hanging up my rock 'n' roll shoes," Mr. Seabrook, 53, said in a telephone interview. "I could have stayed to run Barnett's production and manage the relationship with HomeSide."

But he opted for more time with family, friends, and the Florida fairways.

"My role with the new organization has changed considerably," he added. "But I've been there, done that; I had the choice and didn't want to do it."

Mr. Seabrook is the latest in a long list of top mortgage executives who have found themselves out of jobs in the last two years amid a wave of consolidation.

Since 1994, 146 mortgage companies have changed hands, according to SNL Securities, Charlottesville, Va. Mark Springer, president of M.H. Springer & Associates, an executive search firm in Woodland Hills, Calif., said he has never seen so many high-level departures in so short a period of time.

"The challenges in the industry will continue to get more and more formidable for people," Mr. Springer said. He expects the departures to continue. "It will be fascinating to see who the winners are and who is left in five years."

Many believe the HomeSide venture will be a model for survival strategies. Barnett Mortgage and BancBoston Mortgage, both based in Jacksonville, Fla., pooled their capabilities in March - Barnett's origination operations and BancBoston's servicing muscle - to quickly achieve economies of scale. Since the launch of HomeSide, Mr. Seabrook has run the venture's lending side and continued to manage Barnett's mortgage efforts through its retail bank branches.

Industry observers said that Mr. Seabrook's relatively small role in the HomeSide operation was a likely catalyst for his departure.

He doesn't plan to reenter the mortgage industry any time soon, he said, but might entertain opportunities later.

Mr. Seabrook is not the only high ranking industry executive to opt for a life of leisure. John Robbins resigned as chief executive of American Residential Mortgage Corp., La Jolla, Calif., after Chase Manhattan Mortgage Corp. acquired it in 1994. Since then, he has spent much of his time on his boat.

Fred B. Koons resigned as chief executive of Chase's mortgage unit in July 1995. He is said to be fishing and boating near his Tampa home.

And after Mark L. Korell resigned as chief executive of General Motors Corp.'s mortgage unit in July 1995, he spent the summer climbing mountains before joining Norwest Mortgage Corp. as group president.

Others couldn't stay away from the business.

David Frank was No. 2 at Margaretten Financial Corp. when it was acquired by Chemical Banking Corp. He resigned in 1995 following a short tenure as No. 1 for the merged mortgage unit. Earlier this year, Mr. Frank started up another mortgage business.

Mr. Seabrook has been a workhorse since joining Barnett in 1992 from PaineWebber Mortgage Finance. In October 1994, Barnett acquired Loan America Financial Corp., a Miami Lakes, Fla.-based mortgage bank, and Equicredit Corp., a major home equity lender. In March 1995, Barnett acquired BancPlus Financial Corp., a San Antonio mortgage lending operation.

Mr. Seabrook's retirement, which was announced internally in July, is effective Dec. 31. Barnett has no immediate plans to replace him.

Upon his departure, his current responsibilities will be shared by two men who now report to him. William M. Ross, director of in-market production, will run Barnett's lending efforts through bank branches, and Hugh Hastons, director of national production, will manage Barnett's national wholesale lending operations. Both will report to Doug Freeman, chief consumer credit executive at Barnett Bank.

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