Firstar Corp. chairman Roger Fitzsimonds has sent a letter to employees outlining an 18-month restructuring that will mean job changes and cuts at the Milwaukee-based bank.

Mr. Fitzsimonds said in an interview on Wednesday that Firstar is in the process of hiring a consulting firm to lead the effort, but he would not reveal which companies he was considering.

Tandon Associates, famous for assisting Fleet Financial Group in a restructuring which led to massive layoffs, is now working for Chase Manhattan Corp. Analysts said it is not clear whether Tandon would be able to take on another client at the same time.

Mr. Fitzsimonds' letter, dated May 23, also said that employee benefits were on the chopping block. Right now, the bank's generous 401(k) program matches employee contributions at 100%. That will likely change, Mr. Fitzsimonds said.

However, pension benefits were safe, the letter stipulated.

Mr. Fitzsimonds also told employees that company cars and private club dues for executives would be eliminated.

Analyst Kay Lister at Keefe, Bruyette & Woods Inc. said that the restructuring was partially initiated because of weaker-than-expected first-quarter earnings. Firstar took a restructuring charge of 30 cents a share for the quarter because of an acquisition, and reported 78 cents a share on an operating basis. The bank earned 79 cents a share in the first quarter of 1994.

Mr. Fitzsimonds said Firstar would announce which consultant had been hired before the end of August.

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