But generally, the most important reason is that the executive wants to be the BOSS, reporting to no one but the board of directors--a body that's usually easily manipulated.

That's what we assumed when Philip G. Heasley resigned as president and chief operating officer of Minneapolis-based U.S. Bancorp, saying he wanted to be the chief executive officer of some company or other. He quit after U.S. Bancorp refused to commit itself to making him CEO following the retirement of John Grundhofer. In other words, we assumed Heasley wanted to be the chief honcho.

But the 51-year-old Heasley surprised everyone at the end of 2000, when he agreed to become chairman and CEO of First USA.

What's odd about it is that Heasley will not be the boss of all bosses in his company. First USA, of course, is owned by Bank One Corp., and Jamie Dimon is CEO of that. That means Heasley is not the No. 1 of an independent company, but heads a large fiefdom within a big kingdom. He still reports to Dimon. Making it odder is that Heasley's seven years older than Dimon, so it's extremely unlikely that Heasley will ever move into the company's top spot.

We tried to get in touch with Heasley, but failed, so we don't know what might is going through his mind.

Ah, light bulb, light bulb, light bulb. Perhaps Heasley and Dimon made a deal: If Heasley succeeds in getting First USA back on its feet, it would be spun off from Bank One. Then Heasley would be a real CEO, the truly big honcho of the nation's second largest credit card company. And with that would come all the other CEO perks.

Such a deal would make sense for Dimon, too. He'd have a simpler, more streamlined business to run, and Bank One might even end up with a hunk of capital that it could employ somewhere else.

Time will tell.

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