SAN FRANCISCO - Wells Fargo & Co. announced late Tuesday that chief financial officer Rodney L. Jacobs has retired after 20 years with the company.

He is succeeded by his deputy, Ross Kari, who was CFO of the former Wells Fargo before it was taken over by the former Norwest Corp. in 1998.

Mr. Jacobs, whose last day was Tuesday, had wanted to retire several years ago but agreed to stay on to help the San Francisco banking company through its rocky 1996 acquisition of First Interstate Bancorp, said Wells Fargo chairman Paul Hazen. When the deal with Norwest was announced in June 1998, Mr. Jacobs again said he would help out with the merger.

"Now that the integration is off to a very successful start and Y2K is behind us, Rod believes the time is right for him to retire," Mr. Hazen said in a statement.

Observers agreed the departure of the well-regarded Mr. Jacobs is a sign that the melding of the two companies is proceeding smoothly.

"It's a vote of confidence in the company's integration," said Joseph K. Morford, an analyst with Dain Rauscher Wessels in San Francisco. "The depth of their management team leaves Rod feeling comfortable enough to move on."

Mr. Jacobs' departure marks the passing of a last vestige of the old Wells Fargo's top management. Mr. Hazen, who was CEO of the former Wells, said this month that he was transferring his operating responsibilities to the current chief and former head of Norwest, Richard Kovacevich.

"They are passing the mantle to the Norwest guys, who have a very different, more sales-oriented management style," said Campbell K. Chaney, an analyst with Sutro & Co. in San Francisco.

Mr. Jacobs, who received a doctorate from Stanford University, was an engineer and economics teacher before joining the banking world. Wells Fargo hired him in 1979 as a financial analyst, elevating him to vice chairman in 1991 and president in 1998.

He was unavailable for an interview Wednesday; he left for the ski slopes of Lake Tahoe immediately after the bank's board meeting Tuesday, his assistant said.

Mr. Kari joined the former Wells Fargo in 1983 as a financial analyst and was named chief financial officer of the former Wells Fargo in 1998. After the merger announcement that June, he became deputy chief financial office.

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