Former Golden West CEO Marion Sandler dies at 81

June 4, 2012 

SAN FRANCISCO (AP) - Marion Sandler, a business executive who ran Golden West Financial Corp. with her husband for 40 years before selling the mortgage lender to Wachovia Corp. for $24 billion, has died. She was 81.

Sandler's family said she died Friday at her San Francisco home. A cause of death was not released.

Sandler and her husband Herb bought Golden West in 1963 and grew it from a two-branch savings-and-loan business to a publicly-traded company with 11,000 employees and 285 branches. The Sandlers were hailed as the voices of reason while they steered Golden West and its subsidiary, World Savings, through a period of financial recklessness that led to the failure of thousands of other S&Ls in the 1980s and 1990s.

They sold the company at the height of the housing boom in 2006, but became vilified as ruthless home lenders after Wachovia nearly failed during the 2008 financial crisis and was acquired by Wells Fargo & Co.

NBC's "Saturday Night Live" broadcast a skit deriding the Sandlers as predatory lenders who had duped unsophisticated borrowers and Wachovia, too.

The public ridicule forced Herb Sandler to speak out and defend the company's lending record.

After selling Golden West, the Sandlers focused on philanthropy, including founding ProPublica, a nonprofit that specializes in investigative reporting.

The editors of ProPublica said on the group's website that Sandler played key roles in bringing the outfit into being, from interviewing staffers to selecting its name and logo.

She brought "decades of rigorous and successful experience as a manager and financial analyst to the effective functioning of mission-based organizations about which she cared," they wrote. "It is our great good fortune - and yours as readers, we think - that she cared about this one. We mourn her loss."

Besides her husband, Sandler was survived by daughter Susan and son James.

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