UPDATE 1-Korean-American bank Hanmi says CEO Sohn retires

Thu Dec 27, 2007 5:49pm EST

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NEW YORK Dec 27 (Reuters) - Hanmi Financial Corp (HAFC.O), the largest Korean-American bank, said on Thursday Sung Won Sohn, its chief executive and a former chief economist at Wells Fargo & Co (WFC.N), plans to retire at the end of the year.

Sohn said he is leaving effective Dec. 31 after three years at the helm to teach and serve on corporate boards. He will remain a consultant to Los Angeles-based Hanmi through 2009. "It is time for me to move on," he said in a statement.

Chung Hoon Youk, who is rejoining Hanmi on Jan. 2 as chief credit officer, will replace Sohn as chief executive on an interim basis. Youk is a former Hanmi chief executive, and has more than 30 years of banking experience, the company said.

Dr. Sohn, as he is known, is a Korean native and Harvard Business School graduate. He joined Hanmi in January 2005 after working for 31 years in Minneapolis, the former home of Norwest Corp, which bought Wells Fargo in 1998 and took its name.

Hanmi has more than $4 billion of assets, and operates 24 branches, primarily in Southern California. It also has loan production offices in seven states. Wells Fargo's asset base is more than 100 times larger.

"At Wells Fargo, I felt like I was watching the parade," Sohn said in an August 2005 interview. "At Hanmi, I'm leading the parade. It may be a small parade, but it is far more satisfying."

According to a regulatory filing, Sohn will in connection with his retirement receive a $1.3 million lump-sum payment, $70,000 for vested stock options, $39,346 for unused vacation pay, and the acceleration of 40,000 unvested restricted shares. He will also receive a car and two club memberships, and $6,000 per month for his consultancy, the filing shows. (Reporting by Jonathan Stempel; Additional reporting by Biswarup Gooptu in Bangalore; Editing by Braden Reddall)

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