When Honolulu-based Pacific Century Financial Corp. announced late last week it had appointed the former chief financial officer of BankAmerica Corp., Michael O'Neill, to be its chief executive officer, the banking company was adding a link to a chain forged decades ago.

Connections with the former BankAmerica also embrace Pacific Century's board of directors.

Martin A. Stein, president of the venture capital and consulting firm Sonoma Mountain Venture, is a former BankAmerica vice chairman for technology, operations, payments, and purchasing. His tenure there overlapped with Mr. O'Neill's.

Robert Huret, a former senior consultant to the financial services group at Montgomery Securities, joined the Pacific Century board this year. Montgomery Securities was bought by a predecessor of Bank of America Corp. in 1998 and became Nationsbanc Montgomery Securities. Mr. Huret knew Mr. O'Neill when the latter helped broker the sale of Continental Bank in Chicago to BankAmerica in 1995 and Mr. Huret advised BankAmerica.

And while Pacific Century searched for a chief executive this summer and fall, it brought in Jack Meyers, a former BankAmerica vice chairman, chief credit officer, and head of risk management, as a consultant.

Mr. O'Neill helped guide the old BankAmerica through some of its most profitable years before leaving shortly after its 1998 merger with NationsBank Corp. He is not the first BankAmerica Corp. veteran to be recruited for the top job at Pacific Century and its main operating subsidiary, Bank of Hawaii.

Rudolph A. Peterson, formerly a vice president at Bank America National Trust and Savings in San Francisco, joined Bank of Hawaii in 1955 and a year later became president and chief executive officer. He held the posts until 1961, when he returned to California to become president and CEO of BankAmerica.

It's safe to say that a connection with the California banking giant was never far from the minds of Pacific Century board members as they searched for a successor to Lawrence Johnson, the chairman and chief executive officer who said in August he would step down as soon as a new CEO was found.

In an interview in late September, while the search continued, Pacific Century board member Mary Bitterman singled out Mr. Peterson as a good example of a mainland executive brought in to steer the Hawaiian company.

Though Mr. O'Neill knew a few board members personally, Ms. Bitterman - who led the board's recruiting effort - said his name came up through the formal search effort. "Everyone we talked to recommended Mike O'Neill."


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