Unlike most thrift operators, Great Western Financial Corp.'s soon-to- be-retired chief executive John F. Maher is no stranger to a hostile takeover battle.

His background as an investment banker with the former Eastman Dillon Union Securities & Co. in the 1970s and with Lehman Brothers in the 1980s seems to have been a key aid in Great Western's successful defense against H.F. Ahmanson & Co.'s hostile overture.

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