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Willard Butcher, Former Chase CEO Who Expanded Bank, Dies at 85

Willard C. Butcher former Chairman, CEO of Chase Manhattan Bank
Willard C. Butcher, former chairman and chief executive officer of Chase Manhattan Bank, right, is seen in this file photo from Dec. 19, 1979 with then chairman and chief executive officer David Rockefeller. Photographer: Marty Lederhandler/AP

Willard C. Butcher, the former Chase Manhattan Bank chairman and chief executive officer who helped lead its global expansion, died on Aug. 25 at age 85.

Butcher, who resided in Hobe Sound, Florida, died of cancer, said Fraser Seitel, a former Chase spokesman.

The banker succeeded David Rockefeller as CEO in 1980 and as chairman the following year. Under their tenures, the company expanded to operate in more than 50 countries, including Russia, Egypt and China, where U.S. banks hadn’t previously done business. By the time Butcher retired from Chase in 1991, the firm employed 41,500 people, according to a statement from Seitel.

“I am deeply saddened by the news of Bill’s passing,” Rockefeller said in a statement. He “worked tirelessly to enhance the bank’s position around the world.”

In 1947, Butcher joined Chase National Bank, a forerunner to Chase Manhattan, and later headed retail and corporate business for Midtown Manhattan, according to Seitel’s statement. Moving to Chase’s international department in 1969, Butcher oversaw operations in Europe and sub-Saharan Africa and eventually took broader roles, including a stint as the firm’s vice-chairman for worldwide planning, expansion and diversification.

In 1972, he became president and chief operating officer of Chase, reporting to Rockefeller, who was chairman and CEO.

Chase merged with J.P. Morgan & Co. in 2000 to become JPMorgan Chase & Co., now the largest U.S. bank by assets.

Butcher was born Oct. 25, 1926, in Bronxville, New York. He served in the U.S. Navy. He graduated from Brown University in 1947.

He served on boards at Celgene Corp., Firestone Tire & Rubber Co., International Paper Corp. and Texaco Inc. He was also a board member of New York City’s Museum of Modern Art and the New York Zoological Society.

He was widowed twice. He is survived by his wife of 33 years, Carole McMahon Butcher, three daughters, two sons, and 11 grandchildren.

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