SAN FRANCISCO -- Carl E. Reichardt, the hardboiled chairman and chief executive of Wells Fargo & Co., was perhaps the most lionized bank executive of the 1980s. His institution set standards for efficiency, profitability and acquisition strategy.

But as the decade turned and California's economy skidded, some began to question Mr. Reichardt's leadership. Wells Fargo, the critics said, was not diversified enough to control risk: it was too heavily concentrated in commercial real estate and it had not expanded its banking network outside the Golden State.

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