Mortgage industry kibitzers are getting fidgety because there's not much hard news about which company or companies submitted a successful bid for Prudential Insurance Co. of America's home-mortgage unit, Residential Services Corp. of America.
To compensate for the lack of hard news, mortgage bankers have been seizing on small clues, however shaky, to the identity of the winning bidder.
Last week, Joe K. Pickett, president of the Mortgage Bankers Association and BancBoston Mortgage Co.'s chairman, was conspicuously absent from the Eastern Secondary Market Conference in Raleigh, N.C., where he was scheduled to make a speech. He also missed the first two days of the three- day MBA international lending conference in Miami.
Speculation was that Mr. Pickett missed his speaking engagements because BancBoston was ironing out details of a deal to buy the Prudential unit.
BancBoston is said to have formed a joint venture with Thomas Lee & Co., a Boston-based venture-capital group, and other investors for the bidding on the Prudential home-mortgage operation.
Upon his arrival in Miami, Mr. Pickett said "pressing business" had kept him away and added: "No one should read anything from my not being here."
Another move that has led to widespread theorizing in the mortgage industry was the hiring last month by Norwest Mortgage Inc., Des Moines, Iowa, of Mark L. Korell as its No. 2 executive.
Industry conjecture is that Mr. Korell, who resigned as president and chief executive of GMAC Mortgage Co. in May, went to Norwest to gear up for a large acquisition (read: Pru).
Norwest, which already has the largest retail origination operation, brought Mr. Korell aboard to head a newly created division that includes the mortgage unit's wholesale, correspondent, and servicing operations as well as acquisitions.
By hiring Mr. Korell, Norwest appears to be signaling a strong commitment to strengthen in other areas. And a Pru deal would vault Norwest into the big leagues in these areas.
Mr. Korell declined to comment.
Other parties interested in Pru are said to be Countrywide Credit and G.E. Capital Mortgage, but the rumor mill has been silent about them so far. Karen Talley contributed to this report.