Why the Ax?

Why is Phillip R. Boyce, chairman and chief executive of Pacific Western Bancshares, axing his chief deputies?

Two weeks ago, he dismissed James R. Kenny, his longtime No. 2 man and chief credit officer. The announcement, blatantly without the usual niceties, said only that Mr. Kenny's employment was "terminated." The curt dismissal followed the firing of Pacific Western's chief financial officer in December.

Mr. Boyce described the changes as "fine tuning," and he declined to comment further.

But sources familiar with the San Jose, Calif.-based banking company noted that Mr. Boyce failed to find a buyer for the bank last year when the market for California banks was sizzling. These sources suggested that after Mr. Boyce realized he was going to run the bank for a while, he decided to replace several old-line managers with executives he regarded as more capable.

In Mr. Kenny's case, another motive may be to cut costs. A replacement will presumably receive a lot less than the $581,000 cash that Mr. Kenny took home in 1990.

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