Stuart Davis, former head of Great Western Financial Corp., died Saturday. He was 81.

Mr. Davis, who had a major role in developing the adjustable-rate home mortgage, was chief executive of Great Western from 1964 to 1979. He was chairman from 1964 to 1981 and a director until 1990.

During his tenure, the company's assets tripled, the number of branch offices nearly doubled, and earnings increased sevenfold.

Great Western remained one of the largest independent thrift holding companies in California until this year, when it was sold to Washington Mutual Inc., Seattle.

James F. Montgomery, Great Western's chief executive from 1979 through 1995, praised Mr. Davis' "many accomplishments" and added, "those of us who worked closely with him will remember him first and foremost as a true gentleman."

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