A.G. Espe, chairman and chief executive officer of Columbia Banking System, died last Monday after a yearlong battle with lung cancer. W.W. Philip, vice chairman of the Tacoma, Wash., banking company, has assumed the CEO duties.

Mr. Espe, 60, began his banking career in Alaska. In 1976, he founded Alaska Pacific Bancorp, which he headed until it was sold to KeyCorp in 1985. He remained with KeyCorp after the merger as president and chief executive officer of its Northwest subsidiary until 1989.

In that year, Mr. Espe founded Northrim Bank in Anchorage, Alaska, where he remained chairman until his death. In 1990, he led a group of investors in acquiring two struggling bank franchises in Washington State, which were merged to form Columbia Banking System.

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