IF ANYONE DESERVES to be called the Midas of banking, it's Paul M. Homan.
The former regulator has made a career of turning leaden banks into money-makers.
Fresh from a turnaround at First Florida Banks, Mr. Homan, 53, is taking his skills to troubled Riggs National Bank. He joins next week as its president and chief executive.
Riggs, the last big independent bank in the nation's capital, is operating under an agreement with the Comptroller of the Currency, but Mr. Homan believes it can prosper.
"I don't join these institutions if I don't think they can recover - and recover quickly," he said last week.
He also indicated his desire to hang his hat for good at Riggs, rather than sell it and move on to another crisis.
"We'll spend this year fixing the company, and the next year we'll return to profitability," he said. "By 1995 and certainly 1996, the bank ought to be all the way back."
Riggs is Mr. Homan's fourth rescue mission. In addition to First Florida, which was sold to Barnett Banks in December, he helped revive Nevada National Bank in Reno; Continental Illinois Bank in Chicago; and Pacific Southwest Bank, now part of BankAmerica's Arizona operations.
Mr. Homan got his training at the Comptroller's office. He started as an examiner in San Francisco and rose to the highest Washington supervisory post before leaving in 1983 to run Nevada National till 1985. In 1990, when former Comptroller Robert L. Clarke was branded |the regulator from hell,' he rehired Mr. Homan as a senior adviser.
Riggs, which has $5.2 billion of assets, was hit hard when real estate values collapsed several years ago. It also has a severely wounded international unit, based in the United Kingdom. Mr. Homan - whose turnaround philosophy focuses on strength in local markets - said the London unit will almost surely be sold or liquidated.
He points to the high premium fetched by First Florida - Barnett paid $50 a share, or 2.4 times book value - to illustrate the value of in-market strength. The stock was trading at $16 a share when Mr. Homan took over in August 1992.
|Partners' with Allbritton
Mr. Homan, who said he will soon purchase 10,000 shares in Riggs to show his faith, is taking the CEO baton from Joe L. Allbritton, who remains chairman and largest shareholder.
"We're going to act as partners," Mr. Homan said.
He insists that he has not been hired to prepare the bank for a sale, adding that he is in it for the long haul. The Comptroller's office, he said, probably will not lift its formal agreement with Riggs for at least a year, though he says that simply reflects regulatory caution.
"Even if you,re improving financially, they like to see a good full year of financial performance." he said.
He should know. "When I was at OCC," he said, "I probably administered 400 of these."