Ask the Boss

Within hours of engineering a $15.1 billion bid for Wachovia Corp., Dick Kovacevich, Wells Fargo & Co.'s chairman, hosted a conference call with analysts to trumpet what would be the San Francisco company's biggest acquisition in a decade.Toward the end of the call Oct. 3, Mr. Kovacevich, who will turn 65 this month and had previously hinted that he would retire shortly thereafter, was asked by Christopher Mutascio, a Stifel Nicolaus & Co. analyst, if the deal would extend his Wells career.

John Stumpf, Wells' chief executive, chimed in. "I have asked Dick to stay on and help. What I have not figured out yet is how to talk to his wife, Mary Jo; that I have to do yet. So I am at some peril as I am sitting here."

Mr. Mutascio, after asking another question, said to Mr. Kovacevich, "Good luck with that conversation with your wife."

Mr. Kovacevich quipped back: "John is going to do this conversation. I am not doing it. We will see what his selling skills really are like."

The chairman built Wells into the company it is today after Norwest Corp., where he had been the chairman and CEO, acquired the old Wells Fargo in 1998. Mr. Stumpf succeeded Mr. Kovacevich as the CEO in June of last year.

Whether Wells' deal for Wachovia stands remains to be seen. It was announced four days after Citigroup Inc. announced a government-assisted deal for Wachovia's banking business. Wells and Citi almost immediately entered a legal battle; their truce was scheduled to expire at 8 a.m. today, but Citi said late yesterday that it broke off negotations with Wells. (See related story.)



Raising the Roof

Bank of America Corp. deployed about 75 employees to build three Habitat for Humanity houses in Texas this week.Carolyn Balzer, the Charlotte company's market president for Amarillo, led the team, which was expected to finish the work today.

The annual construction project was funded by the Bank of America Charitable Foundation, which last year pledged $6 million for such projects.

The project was designed to create a "feel good" moment for employees who get to work with the families, as well as to draw attention to the local Habitat operation, Ms. Balzer said. "Here in Amarillo, the Habitat office struggles to get volunteers, and we hope to take a leadership role with that."

Ms. Balzer, who was equipped with a hard hat and was taking a hands-on role with the project, said she enjoyed taking a break to do the interview. "My arm is sore from hitting nails."

B of A's partnership with Habitat for Humanity spans 20 years and the company's foundation has donated more than $14 million to Habitat for Humanity in that time.

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