The guard has changes at Napa Valley Bancorp with the promotion of Bryan C. Hansen to chairman, following the retirement of longtime board chief William P. Brooks.

But the selection of the 48-year-old Mr. Hansen, president and chief executive since 1986, has not softened the skepticism of investors in the Napa Calif., banking company.

Mr. Hansen was on the management team that rejected a series of buyout bids from Westamerica Bancorp of San Rafael, only to see credit losses mount as earnings and stock price plunged. At Napa Valley's annual meeting last month, angry shareholders shouted down company officials when they announced the rejection of Westamerica's latest, $51 million offer.

"Their track record does not inspire confidence in their ability to realize value for the shareholders," Lawrence R. Vitale, analysts with Kemper Securities Group, Chicago, said of Napa Valley managers including Mr. Hansen.

Napa Valley, which has $611 million in assets, earned a scant $215,000 in 1991. Problem loans and foreclosed property climbed 4.8% to $37.5 million in first-quarter 1992. The company's lead bank is operating under a series of restrictions imposed by federal regulators.

Analysts and investment bankers say there is little in the background of Mr. Hansen, the amiable son of a San Francisco-area home builder, to suggest he has the strong hand needed to turn Napa Valley around.

A Step Removed from Daily Operations

Mr. Hansen has labored under the shadow of the domineering Mr. Brooks, The new chairman, an accountant for 21 years with Coopers & Lybrand before arriving at Napa Valley, has no line banking experience.

Under Napa Valley's peculiar structure, Mr. Hansen has not served as an officer in any of the company's four Northern California banking subsidiaries. As chief executive of the holding company. his role has been a combination of chief financial officer and strategic planner, with no direct authority over the banking units.

The recent appointment of 43-year-old Bank America Corp. executive E. James Hedemark as president and chief executive of the company's flagship Napa Valley Bank suggest that Mr. Hansen will stay removed from banking operations.

Focus on |Credit Side of the House'

Mr. Hansen, in an interview, admitted it will be tough to restore Napa, Valley's reputation. But he vowed to start fixing things up, focusing "on the credit side of the house [and on the] cost structure."

Cost reductions will begin immediately, he promised, but it will take "a year or two at least" for credit quality to improve significantly.

In the meantime, he warned there may be some quarterly earnings "aberrations" as losses are taken on foreclosed property.

Mr. Hansen said Napa Valley spurned Westamerica because directors thought it was a bad time to sell. "We felt the best way we could increase shareholder value was to get the thing turned around."

As for future merger talks, with Westamerica or anybody else, he stressed, "We are not closing the door on anything at all."

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