Great Western Bank (1919–97)
Great Western Bank (previously known as Great Western Savings & Loan) was a large retail bank that operated primarily in the Western United States. Great Western's headquarters were in Chatsworth, California. At one time, Great Western was one of the largest savings and loan in the nation, second only to Home Savings of America. The bank was acquired by Washington Mutual in 1997 for $6.8 billion.
Great Western Bank was held by Great Western Financial Corporation ("GWFC"), a corporation organized under the laws of the state of Delaware.
Within five years, Great Western acquired Santa Ana Savings (1956), West Coast Savings (Sacramento, 1957), Guaranty Savings (San Jose, 1958), Central Savings (San Luis Obispo, 1959), and First Savings (Oakland, 1959). The company later bought Santa Rosa Savings (1968) and Safety Savings (Los Angeles, 1969). In 1970 and 1971, Great Western purchased four additional California savings and loan establishments.
In 1972, Great Western Financial combined them all into Great Western Savings.
In December 1985, Great Western moved some administrative functions into a building that it partially owns in Chatsworth.
In October 1989, Great Western announced that they plan to move their headquarters to a yet to be built 10-story executive office building on a 20-acre site in Chatsworth that is adjacent to an existing nine-building service center with plans of selling their current Beverly Hills headquarters building. Great Western finally moved out of their Beverly Hills headquarters to their new headquarters in Chatsworth in May 1992.
In September 1993, Great Western announced that they were selling its Visa credit card operations to Associates Corporation of North America, part of the Ford Financial Services Group, which issues credit cards through Associates National Bank in Delaware.
On January 17, 1994, Great Western's administrative campus in Chatsworth, California was particularly affected by the Northridge earthquake. Despite the quake, that year's profits quadrupled, thanks to the need for lower loss reserves and the gain on the sale of its 31 branches on Florida's Gulf Coast.
In 1995, Great Western's chairman James Montgomery passed the office of CEO to president John Maher, who accelerated the drive toward banking services.
In 1996, the company announced a $115 million restructuring program that would eliminate 800 jobs, consolidate mortgage banking branches, and install new technology. Later that year, Great Western sold its student loan business to Crestar Bank.
Expansion in California
In January 1982, Great Western announced the pending acquisition of Palo Alto-based Northern California Savings & Loan Association with its 61 offices for $61 million in stock. The acquisition was completed in August 1982.
In August 1986, Great Western announced the pending acquisition of 119 out 136 Southern California branch offices of the failed San Diego-based HomeFed Bank from the Resolution Trust Corporation for $151 million.
In October 1986, American Savings, a unit of Financial Corp. of America, announced that they were purchasing 13 offices plus the deposits of two offices that were being closed from Great Western for an undisclosed amount. All of the affected branch offices were located in Northern California.
In March 1991, Great Western announced the pending acquisition of the deposits and 28 branches of the failed Irvine-based Lincoln Savings and Loan Association from the Resolution Trust Corporation for $12.1 million.
In November 1991, Great Western announced the pending acquisition of five offices of the Woodland Hills-based Republic Federal Savings & Loan for an undisclosed amount. The acquisition was completed in March 1992.
In June 1994, Citicorp announced that they were selling the deposits of six San Diego County branches of Citibank, FSB, to Great Western Bank for an undisclosed amount.
Expansion in Florida
Great Western made its first expansion outside of California in February 1986 by the announcement of the pending acquisition of the failed Jacksonville Beach-based Intercapital Savings Bank from the Federal Savings and Loan Insurance Corporation for $20.9 million.
In August 1986, Great Western announced the pending acquisition of four offices in Broward County and Palm Beach County from the Miami-based Chase Federal Savings and Loan Association for an undisclosed amount.
In September 1986, Great Western announced the pending acquisition of the Pensacola-based Southern Home Savings Bank for $25 million in stock.
In December 1986, Great Western announced the pending acquisition of the Lake Worth-based SunPoint Savings Bank for $40 million in stock. The acquisition was completed in July 1987.
In July 1989, Great Western announced the pending acquisition of 63 out of 71 offices of the Miami-based CenTrust Bank for $150 million in cash. The pending acquisition represented $2.4 billion in CenTrust deposits. But the ailing bank was seized by Office of Thrift Supervision in February 1990 for "unsafe and unsound financial condition", before regulator approval could be obtained that would allow the sale to proceed. After negotiating with the Resolution Trust Corporation, Great Western paid the RTC $86 million in June 1990 for all 71 branch offices and $2.1 billion of failed CenTrust's $5.2 billion in deposits. Centrust's failure was the largest savings and loan failure at that time and it had cost the taxpayers $1.7 billion to protect its depositors.
In June 1990, Great Western announced the pending acquisition of the 13 out of 24 Florida offices of the ailing New Jersey-based Carteret Savings Bank for $26.5 million. The acquisition was completed in October 1990. The remainder of Carteret failed and was seized by Federal regulators in December 1992.
Also in June 1990, Great Western announced the pending acquisition of the 18 Florida branch offices with $700 million in deposits of the failed California-based Gibraltar Savings from the Resolution Trust Corporation for $3.75 million.
In September 1990, Great Western announced the pending acquisition of 27 Florida offices of the failed New Jersey-based City Federal Savings Bank from the Resolution Trust Corporation for $9.75 million.
In March 1991, Great Western announced the pending acquisition of all 33 offices of the failed Clearwater-based Pioneer Savings Bank from the Resolution Trust Corporation for $5.25 million.
In October 1991, Great Western announced the pending acquisition of the deposits and 23 offices of the failed Orlando-based The First FA from the Resolution Trust Corporation for $23.4 million.
In March 1992, Great Western announced the pending acquisition of the deposits of $1.8 billion and the 53 branch offices of the failed Orlando-based AmeriFirst Federal Savings Bank from the Resolution Trust Corporation for $27.5 million. Some of the acquired offices were closed due to close proximity existing Great Western branch offices.
In August 1994, Great Western announced that it was selling 31 branches in the western portion of the state of Florida, which included Tampa-St. Petersburg, to First Union for $75 million to focus on other parts of Florida.
Expansion in Arizona
Great Western made its first expansion into the state of Arizona in June 1987 by announcing the pending acquisition of the Phoenix-based First Commercial Savings & Loan Association for $17 million in cash. The acquisition was completed in January 1988.
Expansion in Washington
Great Western made its first expansion into the state of Washington in July 1987 by announcing the pending acquisition of the similar named Bellevue-based Great Western Savings Bank for $52.3 million. The acquisition was completed in February 1988.
In June 1989, Great Western announced that it was selling its six Spokane branch offices to Washington Trust Bank of Spokane for undisclosed amount. This move represented Great Western's withdraw from Eastern Washington state.
Three years later, Great Western finally exited the state of Washington by announcing in September 1992 that Great Western would swap its entire 13 branch offices in Washington for Seattle-based Pacific First's entire seven offices in Southern California.
Expansion in New York
Great Western made its first and only expansion into the state of New York in September 1987 by announcing the opening a New York state chartered savings bank in the city of White Plains that was able to accept consumer deposits and issue consumer loans, but unable to make commercial loans.
Unfortunately, Great Western was unable to expand further into the New York City metropolitan area and it quietly sold its only New York area office to Chemical Bank in 1990.
Acquisition by Washington Mutual
In early 1997 California thrift H. F. Ahmanson & Co. launched a hostile takeover bid for the company, but Washington Mutual's friendly offer won out later that year. Ironically, in 1998 Washington Mutual acquired Ahmanson for $10 billion. In 2008, it became part of JPMorgan Chase.
In October 1977, actor John Wayne filmed the first of several television commercials that he recorded over the next year for Great Western. In August 1978, Wayne, in full western garb, filmed the most famous of his commercials for the bank in the Sequoia National Forest.
After Wayne's death in 1979, Great Western went through a number of celebrity spokespersons including Ben Johnson, Glenn Ford, Barbara Stanwyck, Maureen O'Hara and John Huston before settling on Dennis Weaver who became their main spokesman from 1982 until 1996. The tagline of the bank's advertising campaign during this time was "We'll Always Be There".
John Wayne statue
As a tribute to their most notable celebrity spokesman, Great Western commission in 1984 a full-sized bronze statue of the actor John Wayne by noted American western-motif sculptor Harry Jackson to stand in front of their then Beverly Hills headquarters at 8484 Wilshire Boulevard. The building was later sold after the company relocated their headquarters to Chatsworth in 1992. Magazine publisher Larry Flynt later obtained the building and statue in 1994.
Naming rights and sponsors
The Forum, an indoor arena in Inglewood, California, famous as the former home of the Los Angeles Lakers and Los Angeles Kings, was known as the "Great Western Forum" from 1988 to 2003. This name came from Great Western S&L, which paid for the naming rights on the arena in 1988. While naming rights to sports arenas and stadiums are now commonplace, such a thing was quite rare at the time of the deal. The name still remained for six years after Great Western had ceased to exist. The 15-year naming rights contract expired in 2003, and the Great Western name was finally removed in 2006. Chase Bank, the successor to Great Western, is now the presenting sponsor of the Forum.
More than ten years after the takeover, Great Western's logo was visible in several places at their former headquarters in Northridge.