If a banker had suggested at this time a year ago that there would be more than $73 billion of bank deals between then and now, he or she would have been dismissed as a dreamer.

Of course, in 1995 the fantasy became reality: A venerable money-center bank was sold; Wells Fargo & Co. launched a $10 billion hostile bid; once- mighty chief executives were humbled; and shareholders and directors, once pawns, became kings in the new age of mergers.

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