John F. Grundhofer, Wells Fargo & Co.'s top banker in Southern California, is resigning to head struggling First Bank System in Minneapolis.
Grundhofer, 51, one of five vice chairmen at San Francisco-based Wells Fargo, had offices in Los Angeles, where his title was senior executive officer. He is the older brother of Jerry A. Grundhofer, 45, who was named last month as president and chief executive of rival Security Pacific National Bank, the main unit of Security Pacific Corp. in Los Angeles.
First Bank, a major regional bank in the Midwest, has been plagued recently by bad loans related to such areas as real estate and corporate buyouts, posting a $107-million loss in the fourth quarter. Grundhofer's predecessor, D. H. (Pete) Ankeny, resigned under pressure in September. Grundhofer's title at First Bank will be chairman, president and chief executive.
The operations Grundhofer inherits at First Bank are vasty different from those at Wells Fargo, known for its obsession with keeping a tight lid on costs. First Bank probably is best known nationally for the offbeat, controversial collection of art that hangs in its offices, including a section dubbed "Controversy Corridor." The bank has said, however, that it will sell off some of its most controversial works.
In an interview, Grundhofer said he is leaving Wells on good terms and took the job because chief executive jobs at major banks do not come up often. In addition, he said, he wanted the challenge of turning First Bank around.
At Wells Fargo, Grundhofer's chances of eventually heading the bank were uncertain. Chief Executive Carl E. Reichardt is 57, with no immediate retirement plans. And Wells Fargo's other top executives are relatively young, typically in their late 40s.