Larry Connell has seen banking from all sides.

He's been an attorney and a banker, a state bank regulator and a federal credit union regulator. He's turned around several ailing thrifts and run a healthy bank. He's also been a national consultant and adviser.

And he's left more jobs this decade than most bankers hold in their entire careers.

Now, with his latest post at Portland, Maine-based Atlantic Bancorp slated to disappear with the community bank's planned purchase by Peoples Heritage Financial Group, it's time for a new job. The question is, where?

"I'm open to lots of suggestions at this point," said the 60-year-old chief executive of $480 million-asset Atlantic. "I have a wide variety of experience, and I'd enjoy continuing to participate in the banking industry in some fashion. I just don't have any limitations on what I'd like to do at this point."

Last month's announcement that $5.5 billion-asset Peoples Heritage, Portland, would pay $71 million for Atlantic brought to a close a short but successful stint for Mr. Connell at the helm of a healthy bank. He had toiled in the late 1980s and early 1990s to turn around several struggling thrifts in Texas and New England before helping to form Atlantic in September 1994.

"He's had a string of great successes in dealing with problem institutions and in dealing with some fairly good institutions," said Ronald Glancz, a partner in the Washington law firm of Venable, Baetjer, Howard & Civiletti.

Atlantic, one of the largest start-up efforts in history, was created when a group of investors bought the Citicorp operations in Maine, allowing it to open with $230 million of assets. After three years and another branch purchase, from Cleveland-based KeyCorp, the bank had doubled in size.

Peoples Heritage, which itself has rapidly grown into a northern New England regional, came along about two months ago, Mr. Connell said, and talks quickly led to the merger. The deal is expected to close in early October.

"What I enjoyed particularly was starting up a true commercial bank as opposed to a thrift," he said.

With his career path now wide open again, Mr. Connell said he doesn't care whether his next post is at a bank or a thrift-as long as he's in charge. "To me, it's all a matter of management," he said.

He also plans to remain involved with the Shadow Committee, a group of university economists and consultants founded in 1985 to analyze federal policy issues and make unofficial recommendations to lawmakers and regulators. Mr. Connell is co-chairman of the committee.

However, the former Connecticut banking commissioner and former chairman of the National Credit Union Administration is also being floated as a candidate for the open post of chairman of the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. "I am interested in public service again," he said.

His competition includes Texas Banking Commissioner Catherine A. Ghiglieri, Delaware Banking Commissioner Timothy R. McTaggart, FDIC staffer Leslie A. Woolley, and former Office of Thrift Supervision director Jonathan L. Fiechter.

"Those are the sorts of people who make a major contribution. They come because of dedication to public service," Mr. Glancz said. "It'd be a crowning glory for Larry to cap his career as chairman of the FDIC."

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