IRWINDALE, Calif. -- After nine years at the helm of H.F. Ahmanson & Co, Richard H. Deihl will retire as chief executive Friday, the thrift company announced.

The 65-year-old Mr. Deihl, a driving force in mortgage banking for the last quarter century, will remain chairman of the board. The company had already announced Mr. Deihl's plan to retire before the end of the year.

Charles R. Rinehart, 46, Ahmanson's president and chief operating officer, will succeed Mr. Deihl as CEO. Mr. Rinehart, formerly president and chief executive of the finance company Avco Financial Services, joined Ahmanson in 1989.

During his 33-year career at Ahmanson, Mr. Deihl worked for 26 years as chief executive of Home Savings of America, the company's thrift unit.

Under his leadership, Home grew from $2 billion to become the nation's largest thrift, with $50 billion of assets. From its California base, Home now operates 375 branches in nine states and 88 mortgage offices in 13 states.

Mr. Deihl never deviated from Ahmanson's core business of mortgage lending, concentrating on adjustable-rate loans that protected the company from interest rate risk.

Ahmanson's chief leaves his company with a strong balance sheet, thanks to $1.2 billion bulk sale earlier this year that cut nonperforming assets in half. That sale, however, resulted in a loss of $188.1 million for the first nine months of 1993.

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