Barnett Banks Inc.'s subprime mortgage subsidiary has lost its top executive, Jeffrey Larsen.

He left the unit, Equicredit Corp., based in Jacksonville, Fla., to "pursue other opportunities in consumer finance," a bank spokeswoman said. The company did not have any specifics about Mr. Larsen's plans.

Mr. Larsen joined Equicredit in late 1995 as president and chief operating officer. Soon after, he succeeded the company's longtime chief executive, John Hayt, who retired soon after Barnett bought the unit.

Mr. Larsen's departure was not expected, Barnett's spokeswoman said, and the company is now searching for a replacement.

Doug Freeman, Barnett's chief consumer credit executive, is serving as the interim chief executive of Equicredit.

Mr. Larsen's departure has nothing to do with the unit's performance, the spokeswoman added.

On the contrary, Barnett is very pleased with Equicredit's accomplishments, she said. "Since we've owned Equicredit, its originations have doubled," she said. Equicredit originated $2 billion in subprime mortgage and home improvement loans in 1996.

Mr. Larsen's sudden departure didn't come as much of a shock to his peers.

A 29-year veteran to the subprime industry, Mr. Larsen "has a tendency to move around a lot," said an executive from a rival subprime lender. "I don't know if it's itchy feet, or politics."

"What happened to Jeff at Equicredit happens to Jeff every few years," said another peer.

Before joining Barnett's subsidiary, Mr. Larsen served as executive vice president of the CIT Group/Consumer Finance Inc., where he headed the company's entry into home equity lending. According to a previous Barnett press release, he has also held positions with GE Credit Corp., Security Pacific Corp., Mellon Financial Services, and Commercial Credit Corp.

Mr. Larsen was traveling on the West Coast, according to the person who answered the phone at his Jacksonville home.

Equicredit makes loans to consumers with blemished credit histories, through 141 offices in 40 states.

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