Scott A. McAfee, a mortgage star who dropped from sight 20 months ago, has resurfaced as chief executive of Spring Mountain Group, a housing finance concern in Newport Beach, Calif.

Mr. McAfee, 38, led a rapid expansion of Security Pacific Corp.'s mortgage business in the late 1980s. When that company merged with BankAmerica Corp. in 1992, he was tapped to head the combined mortgage operations. But he declined the post at the last minute, citing unspecified personal reasons.

Since then, he said in a phone interview this week, he has worked as a consultant, taken piano lessons, and earned a pilot's license.

Spring Mountain, though dwarfed by BankAmerica, offers some intriguing strategic opportunities, Mr. McAfee said. What's more, he has been given a stake in the company, which is owned largely by entrepreneur Frank O'Bryan.

Eyes Expansion, Cooperation

Spring Mountain consists of a small thrift, a start-up mortgage company, and a leading provider of escrow services for home sales.

Mr. McAfee intends to expand each unit and increase the cooperation among them. Eventually, he said, the company may expand into homeowner's insurance and other products.

"We can create a really vertically integrated company," he said.

Mr. McAfee took charge of Security Pacific's mortgage business in 1987, becoming one of the youngest mortgage chiefs in the country.

Within two years, he increased originations by 400%, to $4 billion. He also was credited with heavy cross-selling of checking accounts, credit cards, and other Security Pacific products.

His decision to spurn the BankAmerica job - just weeks before the merger was completed - stunned rivals and set off an extensive reshuffling of BankAmerica's mortgage team.

The top post was finally filled this October, when Arthur Ringwald jumped to BankAmerica from Sears Mortgage Corp.

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