From Chase's Frying Pan To Ailing Midlantic's Fire

Howard Atkins had to deal with rumors of liquidity problems in his former post as treasurer of Chase Manhattan Corp., but that may seem like small potatoes compared with his new post.

On Thursday Mr. Atkins was named chief financial officer of New Jersey's Midlantic Corp., becoming the point man for the ailing company's financial restructuring. Midlantic has recorded losses for the past five quarters and is under close regulatory supervision as it seeks to rebuild its capital and profitability.

Almost 9% of its assets, many of which are commercial real estate loans, are nonperforming.

|Exactly What I Wanted'

Mr. Atkins said in a phone interview that the new post is "exactly what I wanted," adding that the company's new management "is clear and unambiguous in its desire to restore the company to profitability."

He conceded that taking the job is risky but contended that Midlantic has a strong franchise in its core markets and "is in pretty good shape to deal with the challenges."

Mr. Atkins, 41, had been Chase's treasurer for three years and spent his entire 17-year banking career in the New York company's treasury department.

Since resigning as treasurer in June, he had discussed taking other management assignments at the company, he said, but had not settled on what to do.

At Midlantic, he must help restore the company to financial health, and if he and the other new managers fail to do the job quickly, many observers believe, its banks will be seized by the government.

One of Midlantic's chief problems, according to analysts who follow New Jersey banks, is that its autocratic former chairman, Robert van Buren, refused to delegate responsibility. As a result, financial controls were lax.

Mr. Atkins, in fact, is the company's first chief financial officer. Previously, financial controls were dispersed among officials at the company's bank subsidiaries. Midlantic treasurer Frank Garnevicus, who retired last spring, had loose oversight of these officials.

A Financial Czar

Mr. Atkins, by contrast, will have complete control of all financial activities.

Early this summer, Midlantic imported Gary Scheuring from Chicago's Continental Bank as its new chairman and chief executive. In hopes of putting his predecessor's problems behind him, Mr. Scheuring announced in July that he was adding $403 million to reserves and taking a $415 million loss for the second quarter.

He also announced a plan to shed $6.3 billion of the company's $21.5 billion of assets and has said he will be ruthless in restructuring problem loans.

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