SAN DIEGO - Former President George Bush was among the 5,000 who thronged the 82 annual convention of the Mortgage Bankers Association of America.
In brief remarks, Mr. Bush spoke of family values, a familiar sentiment to an industry that has promoted home ownership as a sacrosant right of every family.
The former President drew a buzz the night before, when he entered the convention hotel's restaurant accompanied by two aides.
Mr. Bush was true to form, shunning broccoli in favor of onion soup. He accompanied the snack with a glass of wine - and a glass of milk.
The tip he left his waiter: a not-too-conservative 17% plus and a presidential lapel pin.
The session came right after a heavy lunch, but a merger-and-acquisition seminar drew a rapt crowd anyway.
The audience was an equal mix of sellers and buyers, according to a random poll taken by a show of hands.
The group listened for an hour and a half as attorneys and consultants offered guidance for selling a company, how to go about putting it up for sale, how to negotiate and how to close a deal.
Just as much time was spent after the session as the group of buyers and sellers mixed with one another to talk about what they just heard.
The consensus - there's plenty of opportunity out there for mortgage companies of all sizes to be sold. The prices will range according to the buyer's financial ability and desire to put a premium on expansion.
Speculation about the reported deal for Norwest Mortgage to buy a large part of Prudential Home Mortgage intensified. While Norwest's top two executives, Mark Oman and Mark Korell, were highly visible, many other Norwest executives were no-shows at the conference and canceled previously scheduled meetings.
David Frank, formerly president of Margaretten Financial Corp. and then president of Chemical's mortgage unit was spotted at the convention even though he is not currently employed in the industry. He is reported to be in talks with a potential employer about reentering the mortgage business.
Freddie Mac extended some lavish hospitality, then gave attendees a chance to work off any excesses.
About 200 conferees participated in Freddie's early morning run along the San Diego harbor.
Gus Larson of Larson Financial Research, Somerset, N.J., won the five- kilometer event, with a time of 18 minutes 7 seconds.
Tammy Algoe, a marketing executive with Norwest Mortgage, had the best women's time, 22 minutes 8 seconds.
Walden Environment and Voices for Children were also winners. The associations will split $136,000 the run raised through corporate sponsorships.
The long-standing rivalry between Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac has nothing on the intense competition between husband and wife team Mary Matalin and James Carville.
The couple offered mortgage bankers their widely divergent views of the 1992 election, when Ms. Matalin stumped for George Bush and Mr. Carville strategized for President Clinton.
President Clinton, his wife Hillary and Mr. Bush were all fair game. But the couple saved their best barbs to try and one-up each other.
A reception at the famous San Diego Zoo was sponsored by GE Capital Mortgage, a member of the $100 billion servicing club. Spotted talking amicably to each other at the fete were leaders of two of the other club members: Angelo Mozilo of Countrywide Credit Industries, and Mark Korell, newly of Norwest Mortgage Corp.
What's a phone number worth? Plenty, according to a servicing consultant interviewed at the convention.
He told the story of a client that wanted to sell a portfolio of servicing rights. In analyzing the portfolio, the consultant found that about two-thirds of the loan files did not contain phone numbers of the borrowers.
Confronted with this, the client said there was never any need to call the borrowers since they all paid promptly.
The consultant explained that a buyer would probably want to use the portfolio for cross-selling and would not want files without phone numbers. The recommendation: have clerks get the numbers from the phone company's information service.
There's no word yet on the outcome.