SAN FRANCISCO - After leading Bank of California through a period of punishing credit problems, Yasumasa Gomi is stepping down as chairman, president and chief executive.

Mr. Gomi, 50, will return early next year to the bank's Japanese parent company, Mitsubishi Bank Ltd. to take an unspecified new assignment, the bank has announced.

Succeeding him as CEO of California's fifth-largest bank will be Hiroo Nozawa, 51, currently general manager of Mitsubishi's corporate banking division in Tokyo.

The 28-year Mitsubishi veteran was based in New York from 1990 to 1992 where he served as the Japanese bank's second-ranking North American executive and a director of The Bank of California's holding company.

Bank insiders said the change appeared to be a normal executive rotation by Mitsubishi.

Mr. Gomi, who joined Mitsubishi in 1966, came to Bank of California four years ago and was promoted to chief executive in 1990.

His appointment came at a time of retrenchment by Japanese-owned banks in California after a period of aggressive growth in the 1980s.

The departing CEO's original plan to boost profits by slowing growth, cutting costs and focusing on key businesses was overtaken by massive losses in the bank's real estate loan portfolio.

Replacement Is Well Known

As a result, Mr. Gomi has had to concentrate on credit issues. He made important strides in reducing loan problems, but nonperforming assets still represent about 7.3% of the bank's $8 billion of assets.

The incoming CEO is well known at Bank of California. During his tenure as a holding company director, Mr. Nozawa was responsible for ensuring that Mitsubishi's credit policies were followed at the California bank.

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