The chief executive of General Motors Corp.'s large mortgage unit has suddenly resigned.

Mark L. Korell steps down as CEO of GMAC Mortgage Co. less than two years after he assumed the post and began a major expansion. The Elkins Park, Pa.-based unit has since become one of the nation's top 10 mortgage originators; Mr. Korell had said he was aiming for the top five.

Mr. Korell, 47, said he was resigning "to reenergize and refocus, and consider other career opportunities." He said he was currently in discussions with other companies.

Until a successor is named, responsibilities for the mortgage group will be assumed by John D. Finnegan, executive vice president and chief financial officer of GMAC Financial Services, the mortgage unit's parent company. He is also chairman of the mortgage group.

Mr. Korell is a seasoned mortgage professional who had run a GMAC securitization unit before assuming control of the mortgage company in September 1993. That appointment was widely seen as a renewed commitment to the industry by the parent company.

Shortly before Mr. Korell took the post, GMAC considered selling the unit to focus on its core business of auto finance amid debt downgrades and a feared cash shortage. The unit was shown to a small group of potential bidders but was eventually taken off the selling block, according to industry insiders.

In an interview about his plans at GMAC shortly after his appointment, Mr. Korell said he wanted to expand the company's retail business through GMAC's extensive branch system, telephone marketing, and ties to affinity groups.

Before heading the mortgage unit, Mr. Korell was chief executive of Residential Funding Corp., Minneapolis, which GMAC acquired in 1990. The unit buys high-balance mortgages and repackages them as securities.

Before that, he was chief executive of First Bank System Mortgage Corp., Minneapolis, for three years.

When Mr. Korell assumed his most recent position, GMAC was the nation's eighth-largest mortgage servicer, with a portfolio of $39.8 billion. It originated $3.4 billion of loans in the first half of that year, ranking No. 18.

At the end of 1994, GMAC ranked ninth among residential mortgage servicers, with a $53 billion portfolio, and it originated $11 billion, to rank seventh.

In the last year, Mr. Korell has beefed up the home loan unit's management with proven mortgage bankers. In late 1994, he hired Patrick M. Sheehy away from Prudential Home Mortgage and made him chief of production at GMAC. At the time, Mr. Korell said he brought Mr. Sheehy to the company to help expand mortgage lending because, Mr. Korell said, "Our goal is to get in the top five."

Given the recent consolidation in the industry, it would take $20 billion or more in servicing acquisitions to push GMAC into the top five now, and would involve a costly investment. So Mr. Korell is leaving with that goal unfulfilled.

For now, he said, he looks forward to a little break from the difficult routine of the mortgage business, and possibly some travel this summer.

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