John A. Allison IV, one of the most colorful and successful players in North Carolina's banking annals, will retire quietly at the end of this month from his longtime post as chief executive of BB&T Corp.
The end of his tenure comes just as his industry is facing gut-wrenching tribulations, and it's obvious that Allison has mixed feelings about leaving. But his retirement, announced two weeks after his 60th birthday in August, is part of a long-term succession plan that he and other executives crafted years ago.
Allison is a fierce defender of free markets and individual rights, and his world views have earned him fans and critics alike. He's also unafraid to lambaste his competitors. Case in point: The government's bailout of Citigroup Inc. is "like nursing a snake back to health," he told a room full of local business leaders in Winston-Salem, his bank's headquarters, in October.
While the year has brought many of his competitors to their knees, BB&T remains profitable and has even increased its payout to shareholders. That's largely because the bank eschewed subprime loans when other firms embraced them; Allison has called them "irrational" and "esoteric" for almost a decade. The best way to fix the housing market, he says, is a finite pool of tax credits for home buyers, first-come, first-served.
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