Breaking the Bank: The Decline of Bankamerica

Gary Hector, Author, Berke Hector, Author Little Brown and Company $18.95 (363p) ISBN 978-0-316-35392-2
The 1904 founding of the Bank of Italylater BankAmericain a converted San Francisco saloon by A. P. Giannini, an immigrant fruit merchant, was intended to serve the ``little fellow.'' Its spectacular rise as the world's largest and most profitable commercial bank, followed by its recent decline, is recounted here in dramatic and telling detail by Fortune writer Hector. Ahead of its time, BankAmerica's chain of diversified banks offering loans, mortgages, insurance and investments backed by holding companies prospered despite conflicts with government regulators and the Federal Reserve, even recouping losses suffered in the 1929 crash, thanks to loyal small investors of the day. The author traces the political, social and economic changes that affected the corporation after Giannini's death in 1949. Although BankAmerica expanded corporate and international operations, a complacent board and incompetent management riven by internal friction proved unable during the early 1980s to deal with deregulation and the first price plunges in 50 years, according to Hector. With losses and bad or shaky loans in the billions, the bank has narrowly escaped takeovers, which the author envisages as a possible option in the early 1990s. (September)
Reviewed on: 08/05/1988
Release date: 08/01/1988
Genre: Nonfiction
Paperback - 376 pages - 978-0-316-35407-3
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