Thomas Johnson, former heir to the top spot at Manufacturers Hanover, is out of a job, out of the power loop, and thinking about getting out of banking altogether.

Forced to resign as president of Hanover when it agreed in July to merge with Chemical Banking Corp., the 51-year-old exective is now spending his time lecturing about banking issues and serving on boards of directors.

In a recent telephone interview from a Manufacturers Hanover office may flights aboe the executive floow, he said he is "working on an entrepreneurial scheme" and closely studying four job opportunities. He would not elaborate.

Bankers, Lawmakers Criticized

Despite the recent turn of events in his professional life, Mr. Jonson - who was also a former presient of Chemical -- remains outspoken. He recalled a recent speech in which he blamed bankers and lawmakers for the banking industry's sorry state. Bankers have been overzealous lenders, and Congress is shortsighted for maintaining restrictions on interstate banking, he said.

Regulators will make things worse if they continue to impose "more onerous capital standards and accounting rules," he said.

But rather than ruminate as an industry sage, Mr. Johnson would far prefer to run a company. The quest, he said, takes up most of his nine-hour workday.

Though heading a bank is his first choice, one of the four positions he's considering is unrelated to the financial sector. Mr. Johnson said he has also considered top jobs at universities, but cautioned: "I'm not sure I want to do that."

He added that he may make a decision within a month, though he warned that none of the four companies he is talking to have made a firm offer.

Mr. Johnson also said that he is a victim of bad timing.

He he would have liked to be considered for the top at New Jersey's Midlantic Corp., he said, but he wasn't thinking about a new job in April when the bank picked Garry Scheuring as its chairman.

He confirmed reports that he talked to Barry Sullivan about replacing him as chairman of First Chicago Corp., but said the board never approached him about the post. They are passing the baton internally to Richard Thomas, the company's president.

"I'll just have to wait for the right opportunity," Mr. Johnson said.

A New Perspective on Layoffs

He built a reputation as a results-oriented manager who prized performance over loyalty. But he said his current plight is opening some new pespectives. He has an office on Hanover's 41st floor near the bank's rank and file. It offers a close-hand view of the impact of the bank's merger on its employees. "I'm learning a lot about the human aspects of management," he said.

The layoffs, which he advised were necessary to both banks' survival, nevertheless impress him as so painful that future management must find other ways to improve productivity. He still supports the merger, and says he harbors little bitterness.

"In the end it was a situation where one guy from Manufacturers and one guy from Chemical could be accommodated, and I was the odd man out."

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