Senior vice president BankAmerica Corp., San Francisco

In an era of banking consolidation, James D. Murphy has been a one-man acquisition wave. As development chief at BankAmerica Corp., one of the nation's most expansion-minded banking companies, Mr. Murphy has ridden herd on the purchase of 21 banks and thrifts over the past three years.

His latest coup is the pending purchase of 130 Texas branches and $75 billion in deposits of Ronald O. Perelman's First Gibraltar Bank for roughly $110 million. The deal will make BankAmerica a major player in the Lone Star State, the company's top expansion priority.

And although Mr. Murphy didn't engineer BankAmerica's takeover of Security Pacific Corp., the biggest merger in U.S. banking history, he performed the vital task of selling branches and deposits in five states to meet-federal antitrust requirements.

For every deal that's been done, perhaps a dozen more have crossed Mr. Murphy's desk. In an average week, two or three potential acquisitions land on his doorstep.

"I spend a lot of time on the phone with investment bankers who are trying to sell me something," he says.

Mr. Murphy 38, joined BankAmerica's corporate development office in 1983 after a stint as a municipal budget analyst. Four years later, just as BankAmerica was pulling out of its financial crisis, he was named to run the office, reporting to chief financial officer Frank N. Newman.

Today, Mr. Murphy supervises a staff of 13 professionals, He and his team do strategic and financial analysis, lead negotiations, and coordinate due-diligence inspections whether BankAmerica does an acquisition.

Those who have bargained with Mr. Myrphy says he is razor-sharf and always in command of the numbers. When things aren't going his way, they say, he isn't afraid to raise his voice and pound the table.

"He is a very tough negotiator, but never without a strong reason he can articulate," says Todd H. Baker, a lawyer who worked for BankAmerica on several deals.

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