In 1983, when B.P. "Budge" Sherwood 3d was chief executive of Pacesetter Financial Corp. of Grand Haven, Mich., banks were trading at about half of book value; an expensive deal was 80% of book.

That seemed like a pretty good market when Mr. Sherwood sold his $1 billion-asset banking company to Old Kent Financial Corp. But things have changed in the 14 years since, and Mr. Sherwood has engineered 18 acquisitions for Old Kent, building the Grand Rapids company from $3.5 billion to $13.4 billion of assets.

Mr. Sherwood, the 61-year-old vice chairman and treasurer of Old Kent, will retire in the first quarter. No successor has been named to head mergers and acquisitions.

"I felt it was time to make a change and get a hold of my own calendar," Mr. Sherwood said.

When he retires Old Kent will be losing a good-will ambassador who knew virtually every bank president in Michigan, said observers.

"He got a lot done behind the scenes," said Michael Moran, an analyst with Roney & Co. in Detroit. "He helped open up a lot of doors and made people feel comfortable about the sale of their companies."

Mr. Moran said Mr. Sherwood had the skill to run Old Kent but never got the job because he was nearly the same age as his boss John Canepa. When Mr. Canepa retired as chairman in November 1995, the much younger David Wagner succeeded him; Mr. Wagner is now 42.

Mr. Sherwood comes from a family of respected Michigan bankers. His father and grandfather had both headed the Michigan Bankers Association.

Mr. Moran said Mr. Sherwood's most adept acquisitions included a series of deals, starting with one for Illinois Regional Bancorp in 1987, that landed Old Kent in Chicago. Mr. Sherwood looked at a number of targets but was disciplined about not spending a fortune to get into the market, Mr. Moran said.

Old Kent now has $2 billion of assets in Chicago. In February the company named James A. Hubbard chief executive officer of Old Kent Bank Illinois; naming a Chicago CEO was one of the things Mr. Sherwood wanted to complete before he retired.

In addition to being vice chairman and treasurer of the holding company, Mr. Sherwood had been its acting chief financial officer since early last year. That position went last month to William L. Sanders.

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