CHICAGO - Northern Trust Co. on Tuesday named William A. Osborn president and chief operating officer, apparently placing him in line to succeed David W. Fox as chairman and chief executive.

Mr. Osborn, 46, most recently was a senior executive vice president and head of commercial banking at Northern, which at Sept. 30 held $16.7 billion of banking assets and $462 billion of trust assets.

Key Job

The executive "will have reporting to him the heads of [Northern's) principal operating and revenue-producing businesses," the company said.

Northern also named Barry G. Hastings and John S. Sutfin to the new posts of vice chairmen, and said they would be among the executives reporting to Mr. Osborn.

In an unusual move, the company declined to comment on whether its newly named preesident eventually will succeed Mr. Fox, saying only that Mr. Fox, 62, has no immediate plans to retire.

|Customary' Retirement Age

Northern Trust's officers "customarily" retire at 65, a spokeswoman said, though the company does not specify a mandatory retirement age.

Mr. Fox was not available for comment.

Mr. Osborn joined Northern in 1970, rising to become head of commercial banking in 1987.

He has rotated through management assignments in most areas of the company, including cash management, corporate banking, personal and fiduciary banking services, investment services, and subsidiary bank operations.

"He has a good perspective on the whole organization," said Henry Dickson, a banking analyst with Smith Barney Shearson Inc.

Had Held Three Offices

Mr. Osborn assumed the president's title from Mr. Fox, who had held the three top offices at Northern since 1990.

Mr. Hastings, 46, joined Northern in 1974 and will retain his current responsibilities as head of personal financial services.

Mr. Sutfin, 54, joined Northern in 1961 and will continue as head of corporate financial services.

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