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Chief Financial Officer at B of A Quits After 6 Months

August 12, 1986|VICTOR F. ZONANA | Times Staff Writer

SAN FRANCISCO — John S. Poelker, BankAmerica Corp.'s third chief financial officer in less than two years, said Monday that he will leave the troubled company after about six months on the job.

The 43-year-old banker from Atlanta said the position, one of the top half a dozen in importance at Bank of America's parent company, "turned out to be a hell of a lot more demanding, both physically and mentally, than I'd expected."

Poelker, who was named to the job Feb. 18, had purchased a home in the posh San Mateo County suburb of Atherton and was about to move his wife, three children and old English sheep dog to California when he changed his mind about the job.

"I concluded the job at BankAmerica would extract too high a price from my family," he said.

Analysts said Poelker's resignation provided further evidence of the depth of the problems at BankAmerica, which last month reported that it lost $640 million during the second quarter.

Confirms SEC Inquiry

"It is not necessarily evidence of a sinking ship mentality, but, at the very least, here is an insider telling you it's going to be a long, hard struggle to turn this company around," Arthur P. Soter, banking analyst with Morgan Stanley & Co. in New York, told the Reuters news service.

Poelker also confirmed Monday a report that the Securities and Exchange Commission has been investigating the adequacy of the bank's financial disclosures in 1985 and late 1984.

Commenting on Poelker's resignation, a high-level official of BankAmerica suggested that he was out of his depth at the company. The giant banking firm is more than 10 times the size of Citizens & Southern Georgia Corp., a major regional bank where Poelker, as president and chief financial officer, helped to engineer a financial turnaround in the late 1970s.

When he was appointed in February, Poelker said in an interview that he was not intimidated by B of A's size.

"Banks are banks," he said then. "This one just has a few more zeroes behind it."

However, the high official said Monday, "You don't just add a zero to the numbers. This is a far more complex organization." But he acknowledged that Poelker's departure was damaging to BankAmerica's public image.

Poelker, who was also said to be frustrated by his inability to recruit strong subordinates to BankAmerica, said he will stay on for three or four weeks until a successor is in place.

Stirred Rumors of Takeover

He said he had told Samuel H. Armacost, BankAmerica's president and chief executive, of his decision last week.

After he talked to Armacost, Poelker and an associate canceled a series of meetings with securities analysts in New York, triggering rumors that a management shake-up or a takeover of the company was in the offing. B of A officials flatly denied the reports.

Sources said BankAmerica held up announcing Poelker's decision until Monday because top officers had wanted to couple it with an announcement about his successor. However, talks with a leading candidate, whose identity could not be learned, apparently fell through.

As executive vice president, chief financial officer and treasurer, Poelker oversees BankAmerica's tax department as well as its funding, accounting and financial planning and analysis activities.

He does not have responsibility for the bank's much-criticized credit procedures.

"I certainly don't want to be viewed as a quitter or as someone who can't make up his mind," Poelker said, adding that he considered the likelihood of adverse publicity for both himself and BankAmerica in making the decision to depart.

Separately, Poelker confirmed syndicated columnist Dan Dorfman's report that the SEC has looked into the adequacy of BankAmerica's financial disclosures in 1985 and late 1984.

"They asked for some information a few months ago, and we gave it to them," Poelker said.

It could not be learned whether the investigation remains active.

A bank spokesman seemed upset that Poelker had confirmed the probe.

"Our comment on that column is 'no comment,' " the spokesman said. "We don't comment on discussions with regulators or on whether we've had them."

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