Gov. George Deukmejian on Tuesday appointed retired savings and loan executive William J. Crawford of Newport Beach as state Commissioner of Savings and Loans, in an apparently successful attempt to bridge the deepening schism between factions of the state's turbulent thrift industry.
Crawford, 64, was a dark-horse candidate and clearly a compromise appointment for the hotly contested position, which fell vacant last month upon the resignation of Larry Taggart, one of the more liberal commissioners to regulate the state's giant S&L; industry.
The industry is split between a conservative old guard that wants tighter regulation and entrepreneurial young lions who want to take full advantage of California's liberal thrift rules, which allow S&Ls; to participate in a wide variety of new businesses and investments.
Each faction had its own candidate: The established thrifts had initially backed consultant Donald Crocker, while the newer S&Ls; supported Regan Kelly, special assistant to the commissioner.
Crawford is likely to appeal to both factions. The entrepreneurial faction likes the fact that he founded two small S&Ls; and therefore expects him to be sympathetic to the needs of small, growing institutions. The conservative faction, representing the established, multibillion-dollar thrifts, sees him as an old-line executive schooled in the traditional ways of doing business before the trauma of deregulation and inflation hit in the 1980s.
Crawford started in the thrift business in 1948 as an examiner with the Federal Home Loan Bank Board, the federal regulator of savings and loans. He helped found Belmont Savings & Loan Assn. of Long Beach, which was sold to Great Western Savings & Loan in 1969. In 1973, he founded Saddleback Savings & Loan Assn. of Newport Beach, which was sold to Coast Savings & Loan in 1980. Crawford, with a four-year consulting contract with Coast, went into semi-retirement.
"Bill doesn't have any personal ax to grind," said Leonard Shane, chairman of Mercury Savings & Loan Assn. of Huntington Beach, who sides with the more conservative elements of the industry. "He's the type of person who will not be polarized by the differing percep tions within the industry," Shane said.
Salvatore Serrentino, president of California Research Corp., a consulting firm that works closely with the smaller thrifts, said: "Crawford will champion the (liberal) state powers. The appointment means that Deukmejian will not abdicate to federal authorities" who are attempting to reimpose some regulation on the industry.
Crawford, a Democrat, is expected to be easily confirmed by the Senate. The S&L; commissioner serves at the pleasure of the governor and earns $73,780 annually.