Having won the takeover fight, Wells Fargo & Co. chairman Paul Hazen is now preparing for another grueling task: chopping the combined staffs of Wells and First Interstate Bancorp.
"It doesn't make you feel warm and fuzzy to think of people losing their jobs," Mr. Hazen said in an interview on Thursday. But, he said, "You're going to have to do the things that allow you to be competitive."
The $11.6 billion merger, announced on Wednesday, is expected to lead to the elimination of 8,000 to 9,000 full-time jobs, out of a combined total of 46,900. The cuts are to begin after the deal closes this spring.
Details on who will stay, who will go, and how the bank will be organized will be crafted during the next several weeks by a pair of merger integration teams to be led by First Interstate chairman William E.B. Siart and Wells Fargo president William F. Zuendt.
Mr. Hazen - described by some as analytical to the point of being cold - allowed that he went through an "emotional roller coaster" as the three- month battle progressed.
But he said he never wavered from his belief in a Wells-First Interstate union.
"I had an underlying confidence that our merger proposal was superior, and that there was none other that could be better than it," he said.
Significantly, Mr. Hazen praised Mr. Siart - even though, in the course of the battle, the First Interstate chairman had become Wells' biggest critic. He accused the San Francisco-based bank of embracing a "radical" retail strategy, being driven by "financial engineering," and pursuing a merger that would be a "devastating blow" for California.
"I think he has been outstanding through this whole thing," Mr. Hazen said.
Much of what was said by Mr. Siart, he added, was more posturing than honest disagreement.
"When there is a hostile transaction," Mr. Hazen said, "to make your point you color things and you exaggerate things, so you leave the impression that there is a wider gap of interests than substantially there really is.
"Bill Siart and I think much more alike about the vision for a banking company and what needs to be done in today's environment than maybe the outside observer would have anticipated, given all the statements that were made.
"It's just the nature of the beast," he added. "It's the nature of what occurred.
"I really am pleased that this has occurred," Mr. Hazen said. "I feel badly that it had to go through this kind of sequence. You would like things in a perfect world to be different. But it is what it is."
Mr. Hazen also said he had nothing but praise for the job First Interstate executives have done for their shareholders.
"Bill and his management team have created enormous value in the franchise. They have achieved a record price (with the merger) in terms of any kind of historic measure. And, in fact, at that price it was a battle.
"That's a pretty strong statement on behalf of the board of First Interstate, and the management, and, I would add, (Mr. Siart's predecessor as chairman) Ed Carson."
Mr. Hazen also shrugged off what will surely be the epitaph for this deal - that it was the defining moment of his career.
"I wouldn't call it that," Mr. Hazen said.
Instead, he said it was one of many "significant events in my career where the learning curve is very steep."
The 54-year-old executive, who has worked in banking for 29 years, said that other such events included the time in the mid-1970s when he ran a real estate investment trust for Wells that lost 90% of its value because of slumping real estate values.
He also pointed to his responsibility for international banking in 1982, when Mexico defaulted on loans, and to his oversight in 1986 as president of Wells of a tough merger with cross-town rival Crocker National Bank. That merger, in many ways, is a model for what Wells plans to do with First Interstate.
Mr. Hazen succeeded Carl E. Reichardt as chairman and chief executive of Wells last year, after working next to the legendary banker for most of his career. Mr. Hazen said the two were "interchangeable" for the past 11 years as he worked as president under the outspoken Mr. Reichardt.
Even though Mr. Reichardt had sought a merger with First Interstate for years, he never pushed a hostile combination. That was Mr. Hazen's call - one Mr. Hazen said he made because of "a feel and sense" that the time was right.