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SunTrust chief executive resigning top spot in April

Robert Strickland, chairman and chief executive of SunTrust Banks Inc., said Tuesday he plans to step down April 17 and will recommend that James B. Williams become president and chief executive and that Joel R. Wells Jr., a longtime Florida banker, succeed him as chairman. Strickland said he will make his recommendations to the board following the annual meeting of the Atlanta-based banking company that owns Sun Banks Inc., one of Florida's largest banks. Strickland, who will be 63 in May, said he plans to remain as chairman of the executive committee and as a senior manager of the company until his retirement in two years.

Williams, 56, is now vice chairman of SunTrust and a former president of SunTrust's Florida and Georgia subsidiaries. Wells, 61, is president of SunTrust and is a former president and founder of Sun Banks .

Williams and Wells negotiated the merger of Atlanta's Trust Co. of Georgia and Orlando's Sun Banks that created SunTrust in 1984. The two bankers are close friends, said Buell G. Duncan Jr., chairman of Sun Banks Inc. Wells, who was critically ill last summer, is now in good health, but did not want to become chief executive, Duncan said.

Strickland said he decided to step down now to ensure a smooth transition of management responsibilities. Duncan said he does not expect the shift in management to bring major changes to the bank.

"Our company is in excellent condition today and I am confident we will continue to build on our strengths with the new alignment in our senior management," Strickland said.

SunTrust has 21 banks in Florida with $15.6-billion in assets, 18 in Georgia with $9.9-billion in assets and 14 in Tennessee with $5.8-billion in assets.