Then, in 1992, he moved to New Orleans to take over the deeply troubled Hibernia Bank. He quickly performed a restructuring and got the bank back on its feet. But jinxed it was. Last year, despite or because of Hansel, Hibernia began running into serious loan problems again. Despite Hansel's reputation, and his constant efforts to place Hibernia among the top ranks of America's banks, the CEO found himself mired in a bayou, ultimately eaten up by a Louisiana alligator.

The $16.2 billion-asset Hibernia's fourth-quarter results were the final gulp. The bank warned at the end of December that the company would earn only about 10 cents a share, less than a third of the 34 cents that Wall Street had been expecting. The drag was created by a $70 million loan-loss provision, with nonperforming loans reaching $90 million.

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