Kenneth R. Liebler, president of Liberty Financial Cos., will assume the additional title of elected chief executive officer, effective Jan. 1, the company said Monday.

Liebler, 45, succeeds Sabino Marinella, Liberty Financial's founding chief executive officer. Marinella, 65, has been named vice chairman.

Liebler will be responsible for overseeing day-to-day operations, as well as developing and implementing a plan for the company's strategic direction. He had been expected to assume the company's top post since joining Liberty as its president in 1990, a source there said.

Part of his duties will include overseeing an expanded Liberty Financial, the result of recently announced acquisitions of the Colonial Group Inc. and Newport Pacific Management.

In October, the Colonial Group agreed to merge with Liberty in a deal that will create the 11th-largest manager of tax-exempt assets and the 24th-largest mutual fund company in the country. The new publicly traded company will have approximately $43 billion of assets under management, including close to $8 billion in tax-exempt assets.

The merger with Colonial is expected to be completed during the first quarter of 1995. Proxy statements are expected to be mailed out to shareholders of the Colonial Group and its mutual funds within the next few weeks.

"Ken assumes the role of CEO at an exciting point in Liberty Financial's history," said Gary Countryman, Liberty Financial's chairman. "He has played a key role in shaping the company's growth in recent years, and his appointment recognizes his abilities and provides important continuity going forward."

Prior to joining Liberty Financial, Liebler was president and chief operating officer of the American Stock Exchange.

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