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Friday, November 3, 2000

Courtesy photo
Michael E. O'Neill, the new chairman and CEO
of Pacific Century Financial Corp, parent company
of Bank of Hawaii.

Bankoh parent
names its new
chairman, CEO

The former Bank of America
exec says he'll buy $10 million
of its stock as a vote of confidence

By Russ Lynch

Pacific Century Financial Corp. today named a new board chairman and chief executive officer, a former Bank of America executive who immediately demonstrated his confidence in the parent of Bank of Hawaii by promising to buy $10 million worth of its shares in cash on the open market in coming months.

Bank of Hawaii He is Michael O'Neill, 54, who replaces Lawrence M. Johnson, whose resignation announced Aug. 21 became effective with the financial institution's board of directors' approval of his successor this morning.

O'Neill also was named chairman and CEO of Bank of Hawaii.

O'Neill, who said he has visited Hawaii many times since 1963 because of his Asian travels, said his first priority is to turn around Pacific Century's credit rating. The company has been viewed as potentially at risk and federal regulators have been watching it because it made loans, particularly in Asia, that don't meet the best credit standards.

O'Neill said he sees the credit issues as something that can be solved in a relatively short time. "I've been in banking a long time, so I've seen really bad situations. This is not a really bad situation," O'Neill told a news conference in Bank of Hawaii's offices this afternoon.

O'Neill joined Continental Bank in 1974 and held a number of positions, including overseas postings in Brussels, London and Hong Kong. He left Continental in 1984 and worked as an independent international banking consultant until January 1989, when he rejoined Continental in Chicago as managing director of mergers and acquisitions.

He was chief financial officer at Continental when Bank of America acquired it in September 1994. He went with Continental to Bank of America, later becoming its vice chairman and chief financial officer. He headed a policy committee that oversaw Bank of America's merger with Nations Bank, which took place in October 1998.

He was appointed chief executive officer of Barclays PLC in February 1999 but resigned three months later because of an illness from which he said he has completely recovered.

O'Neill told reporters today that the problem was a virus-induced arrhythmia, a heart irregularity, which is now gone.

He said the stock market plunge of Pacific Century's shares in recent weeks was an "overreaction" to news reports about the company but he believes the perception of the company can be improved rapidly as soon as the credit problems are resolved.

"I think we need to move along here pretty speedily," he said. "We really need to get on with the job and I'm looking forward to it."

Johnson, 60, also is looking forward to getting on with his life. He said he will keep an office in downtown Honolulu, stay in Hawaii the rest of his life and enjoy his retirement.

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