First Western President Leaves Position Quietly

San Diego County Business Editor

Quietly and with a shroud of secrecy, Joe Hildreth, president of troubled First Western Bank, has left his position, although it remains unclear whether he resigned or was fired.

John Riedel, the bank's senior vice president and loan administrator who now is serving as interim president, confirmed Thursday that Hildreth's last day on the job was last Friday.

Riedel declined to discuss details of Hildreth's departure, however, and referred all inquiries to board Chairman James Hildreth, who is the former president's first cousin.

James Hildreth could not be reached for comment.

The bank has assets of $8.4 million and a net worth of $770,000, according to Riedel. However, the net worth includes $800,000 in proceeds from a public stock offering completed last month.

Before the offering, bank officials claimed that net worth--or the excess of assets over liabilities--was about $800,000, so the current figures would seem to indicate that First Western's net worth is dwindling rapidly.

The 2 1/2-year-old bank has been operating under a regulatory cease-and-desist order calling for a net worth-to-assets ratio of 7% since August, 1984. The bank now has a net worth ratio of about 9.2%.

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