For Walter V. Shipley, Chemical Banking Corp.'s December 1991 merger with Manufacturers Hanover Corp. looked like a crowning achievement. Until today.

Mr. Shipley, who played a key role in pulling that pioneering $2 billion deal together and who rose to the chairmanship of the new Chemical, basked in the spotlight as Chemical announced its record-shattering agreement with Chase Manhattan Corp.

This time, Mr. Shipley, 59, will be firmly at the helm from the start as chairman and chief executive officer of the new Chase. Chase's Thomas G. Labrecque, 56, will be president and chief operating officer.

More Chemical than Chase people will surround them in the top-management team. Two of their top three vice chairmen will be from Chemical - its president, Edward D. Miller, and vice chairman William B. Harrison - and so will nine of the 13 line executives reporting to them. (See organization chart on page 4.)

Mr. Shipley and Mr. Labrecque said they aren't playing numbers games.

"Obviously, if you have five positions to fill, you can only put in three people from one institution and two from another," Mr. Labrecque said. "But we made a conscious decision not to split strategically and undo, or break up, our wholesale and retail businesses."

"It's like merging the Jets and Giants and picking best players from both teams," Mr. Shipley added.

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