Allen L. Lastinger Jr., the former Barnett Banks Inc. president who was tapped last fall to run NationsBank Corp.'s Florida operations, said he would retire Feb. 28.
The announcement set off a chain reaction of executive appointments that were announced and took effect Thursday, with R. Eugene Taylor, the company's chief Mid-Atlantic region executive in Baltimore, moving to Jacksonville, Fla., to succeed Mr. Lastinger.
Mr. Lastinger, 55, said he made the decision to retire in August when NationsBank announced its agreement to buy Barnett.
He said he told NationsBank president Kenneth Lewis he would stay on as chairman and chief operating officer for Florida through part of the transition but would leave after the deal closed.
NationsBank completed its $14.7 billion purchase of $44 billion-asset Barnett on Jan. 9.
"I thought someone who is going to be living with the operational decisions" should be in charge, Mr. Lastinger said in an interview Thursday.
Mr. Taylor, 50, is making a homecoming. A Florida native and 29-year NationsBank veteran, he spent three years as president of its Florida bank before moving to the Mid-Atlantic post in 1993 after NationsBank acquired MNC Financial Inc. and the former Maryland National Bank.
Mr. Lewis credited the Florida State University graduate with having "built a solid team in the northern part of our franchise."
John Morton 3d, 54, a Maryland National alumnus who has been president of NationsBank's private-client group, based in St. Louis, will move back to Baltimore to succeed Mr. Taylor. The Middle Atlantic region includes Maryland, Virginia, and the District of Columbia.
Adelaide A. Sink, 49, president of NationsBank Florida, succeeds Mr. Morton as president of the private-client group.
In their new roles, Mr. Morton and Mr. Taylor report to Mr. Lewis. Ms. Sink, who will keep her base in Tampa, reports to Owen G. Shell Jr., president of NationsBank's asset management group.
Last August, the $310 billion-asset NationsBank said Mr. Lastinger would assume the newly created post of chairman of NationsBank Florida. His decision to depart reflects a pattern in the megamerger era.
George Bicher, an analyst at BT Alex. Brown, said: "It's not just NationsBank. Announcements are made often to convince employees and customers that there will be a consistent transition. Sometimes, it may never have been the intent to make a long-term commitment."
"Things you say when a deal is announced and things you expect are two different things," said analyst Anthony Davis of SBC Warburg Dillon Read & Co.
"I don't see this announcement as having any material effect on employees or customers," said Mr. Lastinger, who spoke while on vacation in California. "It was a practical approach to a merger integration."
That didn't sit well with Kenneth Thomas, a Miami bank consultant who perceives a promise not kept. "It made people in Florida feel good that Lastinger was staying," he said. "It's kind of a disappointment, but it does fit a pattern."
He called it "most disappointing they led everyone to believe one thing but this was a decision made a long time ago."
In a similar example, John D. Eskildsen, president of U.S. Bank of Portland, Ore., retired Sept. 1, just a month after its parent, U.S. Bancorp, was acquired by First Bank System of Minneapolis. Mr. Eskildsen had previously told Oregon regulators that he would personally see that the merger would be carried out with minimal customer disruptions.
Analysts noted that companies such as NationsBank have deep pools of management talent. Mr. Lastinger "is a good operational person, and he'd be useful to any organization," said Mr. Bicher. "But I think NationsBank has many managerial resources."
Mr. Lastinger, who joined Barnett in 1971 as a financial and market analyst, said he plans to travel, build a new home in northern Florida, and indulge in hobbies that include researching Florida history.