Slideshow Blasts from America's Banking Past, Part III

  • July 12 2015, 9:00pm EDT
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A dive into American Banker's photo vaults offers a view of the banking industry's movers and shakers at the height of their powers. Here's a look at prominent figures, from the CEOs who steered the megabank mergers of the late 1990s and the man who rescued Fannie Mae during a bout of insolvency in the early 1980s.See also part I and part II.

A Big Appetite

Some bankers are hungry for acquisitions. As head of the Providence, R.I.-based Fleet Financial Group, J. Terrence Murray was voracious. The bold deal-maker grew Fleet Financial from a small $3.5 billion company in the early 1980s to the dominant bank in New England. Murray retired from Fleet in 2001, having overseen 80 acquisitions during his two decades at its helm. In 2004, Fleet sold to Bank of America for $47 billion in a deal that gave the latter bank a toehold in the Northeast. The forward-looking Murray also predicted the advent of digital banking back in 1986. He told American Banker that “the full-service branch as we know it today will be practically nonexistent” in a quarter-century, and would be replaced by telephones, ATMs and computers.

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The Man Who Saved Fannie

David O. Maxwell was brought on board as chairman of Fannie Mae in 1981 to steer the housing giant through a period of insolvency. Fannie returned to the black under his watch, selling off $10 billion in troubled mortgages, venturing into the securities business and drumming up more business among savings and loans institutions. But Maxwell's reign had its share of controversy. Critics argued that he steered Fannie into risky territory by buying large amounts of adjustable-rate mortgages, and his $27 million retirement package raised eyebrows when he stepped down in 1991.

Power Play

Former Bank of America chief executive David Coulter thought he was steering his San Francisco-based company into a merger of equals when he agreed to a $62 billion acquisition by NationsBank Corp. in Charlotte, N.C., in 1998. But Nations quickly emerged as the more powerful player in the relationship. Instead of succeeding Hugh McColl as CEO of the merged bank as planned, Coulter was blamed for a $372 million loss on a bad loan to an investment fund and given the boot in short order. Coulter later landed at JPMorgan Chase and went on to join private equity firm Warburg Pincus as a managing director in 2005.

Mr. Fixer-Upper

Gerald J. Ford has spent decades mastering the art of the bank turnaround. As CEO of Golden State Bancorp in San Francisco in the late 1990s, he was credited with rescuing the struggling bank—and making a handsome profit by selling it to Citigroup for $6 billion in 2002. He kept up his winning streak by injecting $500 million into Pacific Capital in Santa Barbara, Calif., in 2010 and selling it to UnionBanCal Corp. for $1.5 billion just two years later.

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A Towering Figure

At 6-foot 8-inches, Walter Shipley has cast a long shadow over the banking industry in more ways than one. Shipley retired from Chase Manhattan Corp. in 2000 after close to two decades as head of the company and its predecessor, Chemical Banking Corp. The 1996 merger between Chemical and Chase catapulted the combined company to the status of the then-largest bank holding company in the U.S. A champion of interstate banking, Shipley's other famous acquisitions included Chemical's 1987 acquisition of Texas Commerce Bank and its 1991 purchase of Manufacturers Hanover Corp. The generally well-regarded banker was also rumored to have been on the short list for Treasury secretary in 2000—but the post ultimately went to aluminum manufacturing titan Paul O'Neill.