DARLA MOORE Managing director Chemical Bank, New York

Before she launched her business career, Darla Moore toiled for Republican politicians. But today, the 37-year-old banker has more in common with Democrats, whose prospects have brightened as the economy has faltered.

Because she is head of Chemical Banking Corp.'s restructuring and reorganization business, these are boom times for the South Carolina native who made her mark in banking by financing bankrupt companies.

She expects the pattern to continue, thanks to the corporate debt binge that has left many companies on slippery financial footing.

"Certainly, for the next five years, this business is going to continue to be very topical," she says.

Ms. Moore joined Chemical in 1982 and quickly began to specialize in bankruptcy work.

"Back then, nobody, but nobody, had an interest in that area," recalls Ms. Moore, who worked on the 1980 Reagan election campaign between attending the University of South Carolina and business school at George Washington University.

But as companies continued to pile on debt through leveaged buyouts, Ms. Moore became convinced she had chosen the right career path.

"I knew that cycle would end, and it did - big time," Ms. Moore says.

By the end of the 1980s, she was running Chemical's debtor-in-possession business, providing financing to an ever-increasing roster of bankrupt companies.

In 1991, after making Chemical a market leader in the so-called DIP business, she surprised colleagues and clients alike by moving across Park Avenue to rival Manufacturers Hanover Corp., where she was given broader responsibilities.

When the two banks decided to merge, Ms. Moore was the obvious choice to run their combined restructuring and reorganization activities.

Given the industry's shrinkage, Ms. Moore wouldn't encourage young people to enter banking, but she has no regrets.

"It has worked out wonderfully, professionally as well as personally," says Ms. Moore.

Indeed. She recently married former Bass Brothers financial adviser Richard Rainwater, whom she met while trying to work out a business deal.

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