National Council And U.S. League Agree to Merge

WASHINGTON - The thrift industry's two major trade groups, pressured by shrinking memberships and revenues, have reached a tentative agreement to merge.

The marriage was approved on Tuesday, as expected, in separate meetings held by the directors of the two groups - the U.S. League of Savings Institutions and the National Council of Community Bankers. The pact faces ratification by the groups' 2,350 member institutions.

Search for Leader to Begin

The associations also agreed to form a search committee to decide who will head the combined organization, which has yet to be named.

Most of the speculation centers on two prominent staffers at state thrift associations: Paul A. Schosberg, longtime president of the New York League of Savings Institutions; and Thad Woodard, president of the North Carolina Alliance of Financial Institutions.

National Council president Mark Riedy has been campaigning for the job, but his strategy may be backfiring. "He was the choice, but the harder he lobbies on it, the more he loses support," said a member of the negotiating committee.

Some sources expect Frederick L. Webber, the U.S. League's president, to toss his hat in the ring, but he is considered a long shot.

The merger, which would take effect in the middle of next year, would create a single thrift industry association for the first time since 1920.

Both associations have been plagued by dwindling revenues and roughly 50% declines in membership because of the industry's woes. The league now has 2,000 members, the council 350.

Though some legal and accounting issues have yet to be worked out, the broad outlines of the combined association have emerged:

* Officers of the two groups will take turns at leading the new association over the next four years. First up as chairman will be a National Council officer: Gerald J. Pittenger, chairman and president of Great Western Bank, Bellevue, Wash.

* The new association will be governed by a 48-member board, split evenly between National Council and U.S. League members.

* No guarantees have been made that all staff members will have job, but efforts will be made to allocate senior staff positions evenly between the two groups.

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