HomeFed Picks Veteran Guide For Rocky Path

Troubled HomeFed Corp. Tuesday said it chose Thomas J. Wageman, a veteran of the Texas thrift wars, to lead it through its period of retrenchment.

Mr. Wageman, the former chief executive of Dallas-based Sunbelt Savings, replaces Robert F. Adelizzi. Mr. Adelizzi resigned as president and chief executive of the San Diego-based parent of HomeFed Bank in May, at the suggestion of the Office of Thrift Supervision.

Mr. Wageman, 57, gained respect for his handling of asset problems at Sunbelt. That institution was an amalgam of failed thrifts that was put together in 1988 by the Federal Home Loan Bank Board with an eye toward its eventual sale. Wageman told analysts he left Sunbelt because there was no future for him there.

$1.4 Billion in Bad Loans

HomeFed, with $18 billion of assets, is suffering under the weight of $1.4 billion of nonperforming loans and foreclosed property. Its problems are the result of an illfated expansion of its commercial real estate business, noted PaineWebber analyst Gary Gordon.

The bank's risk-based capital level has slipped below regulatory standards, and its core capital could fall out of compliance as of the quarter just begun.

"This is not the HomeFed of a year and a half ago," Mr. Gordon said. "It's not a growth strategy. It's a liquidation strategy - a strategy of business-line shrinkage."

By hiring a liquidation specialist from a troubled thrift, Mr. Gordon said, HomeFed follows in the footsteps of another big California thrift, GlenFed, which recently promoted a former Goldome executive, Stephen J. Trafton, to chief financial officer.

Mr. Gordon said he views both California thrifts as "survivors - with a massive shrinkage."

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