On April 22, less than a week after Firstar Corp. announced flat first- quarter results, chairman Roger F. Fitzsimonds got a call from his counterpart at Star Banc Corp. in Cincinnati, Jerry A. Grundhofer.

That contact, documented in a proxy filing last week as the beginning of the companies' merger courtship, was also less than a week after Mr. Fitzsimonds had told his annual shareholders meeting that Firstar intended to remain independent.

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