For Kerry K. Killinger, 1993 was a dream year in which his Washington Mutual Savings Bank bought its biggest thrift rival, boosting assets by 52% and earnings by 66% to a record $131.1 million for the first three quarters.

Mr. Killinger, 44, WAMU's chief executive since 1990 and chairman since 1991, had already led the Pacific Northwest's largest thrift on a deal binge, carrying out 10 acquisitions in Oregon and Washington. But his purchase of troubled crosstown competitor Pacific First Bank from its Canadian owner was a masterstroke: WAMU got the branches, deposits, and home loans of Washington's second-largest thrift but took virtually none of its problem commercial real estate credits.

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