Charles A. Rinehart, in New York on Thursday to visit investors, stopped by the offices of American Banker. The chief executive officer of H.F. Ahmanson & Co. talked extensively in an interview about his company's battle with Washington Mutual to acquire Great Western Financial. Excerpts follow:

On where the battle stands:

"To me, it's a lot like World War I. Both sides are in the trenches, gaining 50 yards at a time and neither getting a decisive breakthrough. The real key will be where the stock market trades the value of the deals."

On whether he would consider increasing Ahmanson's offer:

"It would be very difficult for us to do anything without getting a look inside the company. We've already come as far as we can without due diligence."

On what makes the battle so tough:

"We're facing a halo effect with Washington Mutual. They've had a pretty good track record over the years. (But) it ought to be measured against the degree-of-difficulty scale versus what we've had to accomplish operating in a much more difficult economic climate and more competitive market."

On Washington Mutual's effort:

"Their strategy is to kick up dust, because what they don't want to have happen is for people to compare the deals side by side."

On how the struggle has affected him:

"What I would say is it takes control of your life. Until you get into it, you don't fully appreciate how much that can be. It ends up taking 100% of your life. I haven't set foot in one of our branches in two months. I don't like that either."

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