First Chicago Promotes Thomas To What May Be Short-Term Job

Less than two weeks after First Chicago Corp. chairman Barry F. Sullivan said he would retire, the company announced Friday that Richard L. Thomas will succeed him.

Mr. Thomas, 60, has been president of the company and its First National Bank of Chicago unit since the mid-1970s. He began his career in 1958 as a commercial banking trainee.

Also Approaching Retirement Age

Mr. Thomas, only a year younger than Mr. Sullivan, also may be nearing retirement, which could force the board to pick another chief executive in the near future. There had been speculation that Thomas Johnson, former president of Manufacturers Hanover Corp., was in the running.

Mr. Thomas will have to take up where Mr. Sullivan leaves off, navigating the recession and reviving First Chicago's global corporate bank, which has most of the company's risky assets.

During the first nine months of 1991, First Chicago earned $131.4 million, representing a 0.33% annualized return on assets and a 5.7% return on equity. The company finished the third quarter with problem assets totaling $1.44 billion, or 5.6% of gross loans.

Mr. Thomas is a 1958 graduate of the Harvard Business School and is a trustee of Northwestern University.

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