The director of retail banking at American Savings Bank, the nation's fourth-largest thrift, resigned abruptly after what was described as a "serious disagreement" with management.
W. Brent Robinson, an executive vice president in charge of American Savings' 159-branch network since 1987, left the Irvine, Calif.-based thrift last week.
American Savings spokeswoman Dianne Seeber said the disagreement between Mr. Robinson and senior management "had been going on for some time."
Retail banking at the thrift is now being run by chairman and chief executive Mario J. Antoci while a replacement is sought.
The disagreement did not pertain to the performance of the retail branches or any "criminal activity" but was "of a personal nature," Ms. Seeber said.
Mr. Robinson was one of three American Savings employees on the board of directors at the $19 billion-asset thrift.
Reached at his home in Laguna Beach, Calif., the 54-year-old executive said "it was just time" to leave. He is interested in running his own thrift or bank, Mr. Robinson said, but because of the relative youth of his superiors at American Savings, this was not likely to have happened there.
Mr. Robinson's boss at American Savings, Robert T. Barnum, is 49. Mr. Antoci is 62.
Before joining American Savings in 1986, Mr. Robinson had been president for 10 years of Citizens National Bank, Boise, Idaho.
Some observers said they were surprised at Mr. Robinson's departure. American Savings is seen as one of the more likely acquisition candidates among large California thrifts.
If a deal is ever concluded, the compensation for someone of Mr. Robinson's status could have been "quite comfortable," said Randall W. Hill, a partner in Los Angeles with the executive search company Heidrick & Struggles.
Other industry observers added privately that Mr. Robinson is seen in the industry as a solid executive. "He was one of the more creative and forward-thinking people in the bank," said one industry source.
Mr. Robinson shares credit for an unusual debit card introduced by the thrift in January. It awards frequent-flyer miles in a way similar to frequent flyer awards with credit and charge cards.
American Savings was acquired by the Robert M. Bass Group Inc. in late 1988, after its predecessor, American Savings and Loan, was put in receivership by bank regulators. American Savings Bank is now a unit of Keystone Holdings Inc., a Robert M. Bass partnership.
Last year, the Bass group was reported to have sought buyers for American Savings, but no deal was ever consummated.