As Jack French stepped to the podium at a conference last week, about half the audience of investors got up and left.

They figured that the speech by the chairman of Plaza Home Mortgage Corp. would be anti-climactic, following, as it did, a presentation by mortgage giant Countrywide Credit Industries. But Mr. French, 60, didn't miss a beat.

Subscribe Now

Access to authoritative analysis and perspective and our data-driven report series.

14-Day Free Trial

No credit card required. Complete access to articles, breaking news and industry data.