It's not often that a bank CEO resigns because he thinks he's done a poor job. Maybe it's because Hawaii is so close to Japan that Bank of Hawaii's CEO Lawrence Johnson performed the corporate equivalent of hara kiri last month. Gee, even the Japanese don't do that any more.

Yet the 59-year-old Johnson, who has been with the bank 42 years, and CEO and chairman of the bank since 1994, quit this past summer because the shares of the bank's holding company, Pacific Century Financial Corp., have failed to improve. In October 1997, they had been trading around $27 a share, but last month they were trading around $16.50. "The financial markets and our shareholders need to regain confidence in our ability to increase shareholder value," he said.

Johnson's action was unusual, but his plight isn't. Many CEOs, forced to meet the rigorous demands of investors, take heroic steps to squeeze more money out of the rocks they're stuck with. In Bank of Hawaii's case, there wasn't much growth locally, so Johnson ventured out to Asia and into buying syndicated loans. Neither worked.

At least Johnson isn't trying to fool himself, or anyone else.

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