But who could blame Grundhofer, or for that matter, Heasley?

Even if Grundhofer were to step down at the normal retirement age of 65, he has four years to go. And Grundhofer won't commit even to that. A lot could happen in four years, especially in this tumultuous era, when the nation's biggest and most venerable banks are stunning the markets with surprise mergers.

And who could blame the 51-year-old Heasley? Until he said he'd leave, he'd been heir-apparent at the Minneapolis-based bank, and his name remains hot. Above all, he's certainly seen as CEO material. But, again, anything could happen in four years. Perhaps his star will fall, or perhaps another will rise and eclipse his shine.

"I want to run a company as a CEO, and I've decided to look outside U.S. Bancorp," Heasley said in a statement. In an interview with American Banker, our sister publication, Grundhofer said Heasley decided to resign after failing to obtain a guarantee that he would become US Bancorp's CEO. His employment contract expired early last month.

Heasley shouldn't have much trouble finding a job, even a big job. In fact, one's coming up. Douglas Leatherdale, the 63-year-old chairman and CEO of the St. Paul Companies is reaching retirement age and Heasley could be a candidate there. True, with assets of about $41 billion, it's substantially smaller than the $86 billion-asset U.S. Bancorp, but maybe Heasley could grow it quickly. In August, St. Paul's president and chief operating officer, James E. Gustafson, said he would leave the company, and St. Paul said it will begin an external search for potential successors.

In the meantime, Grundhofer seems to be determined to avoid more of the same. The bank said he will not appoint a new president and chief operating officer, but that the bank will be run by its management committee, with its 14-plus members, headed by, guess who?

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