JOHN C. CANEPA: Title: Consulting principal with Crowe Chisek, South Bend, IN, the country's 10th largest accounting and consulting firm.

Departure: Canepa-the first syllable is accented-on Nov. 1 left Michigan's Old Kent Financial Corp., where he had been chairman and, until last March 1, chief executive. David Wagner, the company's 41-year-old CEO, adds the chairman's title. Canepa will continue as a director.

New challenge: Canepa, who came to Grand Rapids-based Old Kent in 1970 and became president in 1972, says joining Crowe Chizek was "something I wanted to do, and it's a unique opportunity with a great firm, where I can bring my 41 years of banking experience to the task." Canepa, 65, had planned to retire in August 1997.

Familiarity: Says he has visited Crowe Chisek headquarters in the past and given talks to professionals there, and Old Kent had used the firm in consulting assignments. "Their clients aren't necessarily $10-billion or $12-billion banks, but I know the markets they're in and I know some of the people."

Proper timing: "From a corporate perspective, it was an ideal time for me to step down as chairman. The corporation has a very effective strategy in place for the next decade. We're in a strong financial position, and we've got a good management team in place." Old Kent, which is strongly profitable, is considered a takeover candidate by some analysts.

Background: Canepa helped lead Old Kent to 22 consecutive years of record earnings and saw it grow from $813 million in assets in 1972 to just under $12 billion. Became CEO in 1982. Educated at Harvard and New York University (MBA). Before coming to Michigan, he worked for Chase Manhattan Corp. and American Financial Corp. in Cincinnati.

Plenty of activity: "My wife probably doesn't think this is a definition of retirement," he quips, "but I have a lot of energy and I have my health.... I think it's going to be a lot of fun."

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