Joseph DeLuca, an icon of real estate finance, resigned from Chase Manhattan Corp. last week.
Mr. DeLuca, 52, has spent more than 22 years at Chase and its predecessor banks, Chemical Banking Corp. and Manufacturers Hanover Corp.
Most recently a managing director and division executive in Chase's real estate finance group, Mr. DeLuca will remain at the banking company until January.
Steve Plavin and Ben McGrath are to co-head the division in the interim. Mr. Plavin currently heads up client management responsibilities for the real estate group, and Mr. McGrath is responsible for advisory and placement services.
Mr. DeLuca could not be reached to comment. But in an internal memo distributed last Friday, Chase vice chairman James B. Lee Jr. said the real estate veteran is leaving to "pursue a new chapter in his business career."
In July, Mr. Lee moved to more closely integrate Chase's real estate group with its investment banking effort. Before that, Mr. DeLuca had been running Chase's real estate group as a separate entity with its own business strategy. Now it is a specialized industry group within the investment bank.
The restructuring also called for Mr. DeLuca to form a real estate finance council to coordinate the company's global real estate exposure and policies.
"He was a great asset to the bank," said Ron Bruder, president of the Brookhill Group, a real estate operator in New York. "He's a doer, known for making things happen, for creativity and putting together larger real estate deals.
"He's quite a powerhouse. He created that real estate department," Mr. Bruder added.
Mr. DeLuca is credited with working on some of the bank's largest real estate deals and for handling the sale of its problem real estate assets in the early 1990s.
"Joe has done a good job of cleaning up Chase's portfolio," said real estate broker Mary Anne Tighe, an executive managing director at Insignia/ESG. "He had put the house in order.
"This would be the time to start up with new (construction) loans, but to me, his departure signals that they are not going in that direction," she added.
A Chase spokesman said the bank has offered and will continue to supply construction lending on a selective basis.
In his memo, Mr. Lee thanked Mr. DeLuca for "developing new business initiatives in real estate corporate finance, mortgage banking, securitization, and advisory services." He also said Mr. DeLuca worked hard to integrate the real estate group into Chase's investment banking effort.
Other banking companies, including Fleet Financial Group and BankBoston Corp., have also more closely aligned their real estate financing efforts with their capital markets businesses.
"It doesn't surprise me to see Chase and others pulling in and restructuring," said bank analyst Gerard Cassidy of Tucker Anthony. "The business is still risky, though it's being done far more conservatively today than 10 years ago."
"Capital markets is the hot area to be in for a bank, which makes analysts wonder if that's going to be the next bomb to go off," Mr. Cassidy added.