Couple who traded Wall Street for California retire with $2.6bn after selling mortgage business

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The Independent Online

A septuagenarian couple are heading into retirement with a $2.6bn (£1.4bn) payday after selling the West Coast bank they bought 43 years ago and turned into one of the biggest mortgage companies in the US.

Herb and Marion Sandler, joint chief executives of Golden West Financial, have agreed to a takeover by Wachovia, the fourth biggest bank in the US. They will take a mix of cash and shares for the 10 per cent stake they still own.

The couple have become one of the best respected and most outspoken management teams in the US banking industry, after growing the assets of their savings and loan company from $38m in 1963 to $125bn.

And they remained in combative mood yesterday, after Wall Street gave a thumbs down to the deal.

Analysts said the price tag of $25.5bn is too high at a time when the housing market appears to be coming off the boil. Wachovia - which is based in Charlotte, North Carolina - is trying to bulk up its business on the West Coast, where a booming population is generating some of the fastest economic growth in the US.

Mr Sandler declared himself "appalled at the ignorance" on display from analysts who were "making comments for the moment". He said: "We will be one of the largest shareholders in Wachovia and we haven't worked hard for 43 years to own an enormous amount of stock in a company that we don't admire and respect and expect to achieve great results from over the next decade."

Mrs Sandler was one of Wall Street's first female analysts and Mr Sandler was a lawyer in New York when they married in 1961 and headed to California in search of a savings and loan company to buy. The couple's unusual arrangement as joint chief executives has endured ever since, with Mrs Sandler concentrating on customer service and Mr Sandler on administration.

Mrs Sandler often surprises business partners and journalists by knitting her husband jumpers during meetings. Lifelong Democrats, the couple contributed to John Kerry's presidential campaign in 2004.