First Nationwide Bank, the large but ailing thrift unit of Ford Motor Co., has reorganized its consumer operations and hired a seasoned California bank executive as its new finance chief.

The San Francisco-based thrift said Friday that Jack A. Frazee has been appointed to the new post of vice chairman in charge of finance and treasury operations.

Mr. Frazee resigned as chief financial officer of H.F. Ahmanson & Co., the nation's largest thrift, in May. He had worked at the company for three years, following a 20-year career at Union Bank, another California rival.

First Nationwide also said that its consumer businesses have been unified into a single group led by Peter K. Thomsen, formerly head of branch operations.

As part of the reshuffling, the thrift's home-mortgage chief resigned and will not be replaced.

Nation's Fifth Largest

First Nationwide, with about $18 billion of assets, is the nation's fifth largest thrift. Ford acquired it in 1985 with the intent of offsetting the cyclicality of the auto business. However, in recent years it has been suffering steep losses related to commercial real estate lending.

Its parent, First Nationwide Financial Corp., lost $73 million in 1991 and $40 million in the first half of this year.

Mr. Frazee, 49, rounds out an eclectic turnaround team. It is led by John M. Devine, a former controller in Ford's truck division, who was promoted to chairman and chief executive last year. Mr. Devine, 48, joined the thrift in 1989.

Jon M. Christoffersen, an international banker who spent 11 years at Citicorp and served briefly as president of Visa U.S.A., replaced Mr. Devine as president and chief operating officer last year.

Mr. Frazee and Mr. Christoffersen will be "at more or less an equal level," with both reporting to Mr. Devine, said thrift spokeswoman Beth Quartarolo.

Down the Road

Some rivals and executive recruiters believe that Mr. Devine, a career Ford man, would like to eventually return to Ford headquarters in Dearborn, Mich. That could pit Mr. Frazee and Mr. Christoffersen, 50, against each other for the No. 1 post.

Ms. Quartarolo, however, said Mr. Devine "has no plans to go anywhere."

In the consumer reorganization, Mr. Thomsen has been handed a full set of reins for residential lending, branch operations, and marketing -- functions that previously reported directly to Mr. Christoffersen.

First Nationwide said the consolidation is meant to facilitate cross-selling of its products.

Creating a Stir

It also led to the apparently forced resignation of Linda Simmons, who created a stir in mortgage circles in January when she was hired to run residential lending.

Ms. Simmons, an executive vice president, had been a consultant with KPMG Peat Marwick and had no experience managing a mortgage business. She could not be reached for comment.

The managers in charge of mortgage originations and mortgage servicing will report to Mr. Thomsen, while the head of secondary market sales will report to Mr. Frazee, First Nationwide said.

Mr. Thomsen, previously an executive vice president, has been promoted to senior executive vice president. M. Lucile Reid is being promoted to Mr. Thomsen's old job as branch chief.

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