Commercial Credit gets new chairman, president Appointments part of Primerica shake-up

June 29, 1993|By Ian Johnson | Ian Johnson,New York Bureau

NEW YORK -- As part of a continued shake-up in the wake of its recent expansion, Primerica Corp. named two new executives yesterday to head its Baltimore-based Commercial Credit Co.

The move elevates President Robert B. Willumstad, 47, to chairman and chief executive, while former executive Vice President Marjorie Magner, 44, was named president and chief administrative officer.

Although the promotions were not directly related to Primerica's recent $1 billion acquisition of the Shearson brokerage unit from the American Express Co., they were the most recent in a monthlong restructuring of Primerica to accommodate its new size.

The company has added two new group chief executives, with Mr. Willumstad's predecessor, Robert I. Lipp, now heading all of Primerica's consumer finance, including Commercial Credit, while a second group chief executive heads the company's brokerage businesses.

Primerica has also lured away two former Morgan Stanley investment bankers to top positions over the past few days.

Primerica's stock has rallied since the Shearson purchase, climbing to $52.625 a share yesterday, from about $35 prior to the acquisition. The company closed up $2.75 a share yesterday.

Commercial Credit, which employs more than 300 people in Baltimore and has 4,000 employees nationwide in 750 branches, makes loans to consumers and has been Primerica's financial backbone over the past seven years.

Ms. Magner acknowledged that the purchase of Shearson, which will make Primerica the country's second-largest brokerage, makes Commercial Credit less central to the New York-based company but said that Commercial Credit's earnings remain strong. The company made $193.5 million last year on $1.16 billion in revenues.

Last year, Primerica earned $716 million on revenue of $5.1 billion. "We've got a great plan for this year and will stick with it," Ms. Magner said. "We feel we've gotten through the recession with our portfolio intact and now are poised for some growth."

Troubled loans, for example, were at a four-year low, Mr. Willumstad said, and consumer borrowing was slowly picking up, especially as consumers consolidate debt.

Commercial Credit has opened 50 offices this year and plans to open another 150, primarily in the West and Midwest, he said.

The expansion would mean marginal hiring in the Baltimore office, he said, adding that Commercial Credit plans to remain based in Baltimore.

Both Mr. Willumstad and Ms. Magner came to Commercial Credit in 1987 from Chemical Bank, a year after Sanford I. Weill, now Primerica's chairman and chief executive, took the helm of Commercial Credit, spinning it off as a stockholder-owned company from its previous owner, Control Data Corp.

Later, Mr. Weill acquired Primerica and then the Smith Barney, Harris Upham & Co. Inc. brokerage.

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