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Comerica Chairman Babb to retire at year-end

Ralph Babb, executive chairman of Comerica Bank in Dallas, will retire at the end of the year and be replaced by CEO Curtis Farmer.

Babb stepped down from the chief executive position earlier this year after more than 17 years in the seat. He had been one of the longest-tenured CEOs of a major bank.

Babb had mentored Farmer, who joined Comerica in 2008 to lead its wealth management team after a long stint at Wachovia Bank.

“I'm confident that under Curt's direction and influence Comerica will continue to raise the expectations of what a bank can be,” Babb said in a press release Tuesday.

Babb guided the now $73 billion-asset bank through its move from Detroit to Dallas in 2007 and helped steer the company through the 2014 collapse in oil prices that put stress on its energy portfolio. Activist investors had pushed for a sale of the bank in 2016, but with no deal coming through, executives embarked on a broad program to reduce expenses and shore up the bank’s bottom line.

Babb’s retirement rules out the potential for a $58 million payout from his previous change-of-control agreement if the bank had been sold while he was in service there, according to the bank’s proxy statement.

"Ralph leaves a remarkable legacy,” Farmer said in the press release. “He navigated Comerica through times of great prosperity and during challenging economic cycles with transparency, stewardship and integrity.”

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