A phone call put Wachovia back in play

CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- On Thursday, Wachovia and Citigroup executives and lawyers were in New York deep into outlining details for their merger. Back in Charlotte, some bank employees were slowly coming to grips with a pride-wounding, government-assisted deal brokered just days earlier.

Then came the call.

Around 9 p.m., Wells Fargo Chairman Dick Kovacevich, whose company had passed on buying the Charlotte bank over the weekend, called Wachovia chief executive Bob Steel, a source familiar with the situation said. The San Francisco-based bank's longtime leader had a $15.1 billion offer to buy Wachovia, without any government help.

Steel, who had taken over a battered Wachovia in July, brought the deal to his board, which met via phone. Late Thursday night, Wachovia's directors approved the sale, and early Friday morning, senior leaders were alerted to join a conference call: Wachovia had a new buyer.

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