Three top mutual fund executives have quit Firstar Corp. in the wake of a major reorganization.

Geoffrey G. "Rip" Maclay Jr., brokerage chief at the $14.3 billion-asset Milwaukee banking company, resigned Jan. 1, officials confirmed.

As president of Firstar Investment Services, Mr. Maclay oversaw a 475- person brokerage sales force - one of the largest in the banking industry.

Also out are Mark A. Kimla, an assistant vice president who managed the bank's $2.6 billion-asset proprietary mutual fund family, the Portico Funds; and Thomas Hatcher, a first vice president who oversaw the back- office services that Firstar sells to mutual fund companies and employee benefit plans.

The resignations came in the wake of sweeping changes in Firstar's investment products sales and management strategy - moves seen by industry observers as an effort to pump fresh life into a business that has been hurt by the market slump.

Firstar and other banks "have done a poor job of building up a sales- oriented culture, and maybe this is a way to change that," said Geoffrey H. Bobroff, president of Bobroff Consulting, East Greenwich, R.I.

The changes at Firstar can be traced directly to a plan implemented Jan. 1 by executive vice president Michael J. Bills. All three executives who quit lost significant authority in the shakeup, Mr. Bills acknowledged in a telephone interview.

Under the plan, the functions of the company's trust, brokerage, and securities service units were streamlined, and the Portico Funds' five- year-old distribution agreement with Sunstone Financial Group, Milwaukee, was scrapped.

These developments came on the heels of a decision in December to impose sales fees, or loads, on retail shares of the Portico Funds. The no-load strategy, a rarity at banks, had been unpopular with Firstar's brokers, who preferred to sell funds for which they could receive commissions.

In the restructuring, Mr. Maclay, the former brokerage chief, lost responsibility for Firstar's bond underwriting duties. These duties were transferred to Firstar's trust subsidiary.

Dana Russart, who previously ran marketing for the Portico Funds, replaced Mr. Maclay as president of the brokerage.

A unit headed by Mr. Kimla that had handled shareholder servicing for the Portico Funds was combined with another Firstar unit that sells this service to other mutual funds. Mr. Kimla's job was eliminated as a result.

Management of fund administration and custody services was taken away from Mr. Hatcher and split between two trust executives, Robert L. Webster and Joseph S. Quinn.

"It was apparent that Rip (Maclay) and the others were not happy with their new roles at the bank," the executive said. "It was basically a new guard pushing out the old."

Reached at his home in Milwaukee, Mr. Maclay declined to comment on his departure, saying only that he wanted "to look forward and not back."

Mr. Kimla and Mr. Hatcher could not be reached for comment.

In severing its distribution contract with Sunstone, Firstar has opted to handle internally the job of marketing the Portico Funds to the branch- based brokers.

Its new distributor, B.C. Ziegler, West Bend, Wis., is known as a "paper distributor," meaning it manages distribution contracts for the bank, but little else, fulfilling only the minimum requirements of the Glass-Steagall Act.

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