Now that he's done clearing his name, 75-year-old Saehan Bank Chief Executive Benjamin Hong says he's ready to get on with his retirement and consulting practice. Hong was the target of a $50 million lawsuit brought in 2005 by Nara Bank. The bank had recruited him in 1994, and it flourished as Koreatown experienced a real estate boom. Its assets nearly quadrupled during Hong's 11-year tenure as chief executive


"The bank was my baby. I built it up and a lot of people made money and I made money too," Hong said. "I never dreamed that Nara would ever sue me for $50 million."


Nara sued Hong because of complications arising over a 2002 arrangement in which he gave up a $600,000 bonus. This was apparently done to avoid reducing earnings by a penny a share. However, securities law prohibits arrangements that appear to manipulate earnings. Hong left Nara in 2005. He said he came out of retirement last year to serve as chief executive at Saehan largely to stay in the game while the suit was resolved. A judge recently granted Hong $742,000 in a settlement. Hong said Saehan is ready for a successor. The bank has bolstered its earnings in the past year as Hong replaced about two-thirds of upper management staff.


Coldwell Crooner


Coldwell Banker real estate agent Tony Dowdy came to L.A. from Clarksville, Tenn., in 1989 as a member of the original cast of the musical "Tony and Tina's Wedding." A country singer, he made a go of it in the music biz for a few years. He did session work, corporate gigs and jingles, but in 2002 he put his music aside and became an agent for Coldwell, working out of the Pasadena office. Recently, after attending a memorial service for a friend, he found his creative fires rekindled. He's been writing and recording songs and will be finishingit up in Nashville soon. "Being clear on what it is you really want to say as an artist requires being brutally honest with yourself," Dowdy said. "and then not being afraid to put that out there for everyone to hear." So will one of the tracks on the album be "Subprime Cryin' Time"? Not exactly, Dowdy said, but one of the verses in a song he's writing for the album "has a line about a guy whose house is being foreclosed on."


Never Ever


PR guru Michael Levine is making the rounds to pump his latest book, "Never," a compilation of "Don'ts for Personal Happiness and Success." Levine, who spoke last week at a meeting of the L.A. Press Club, said it only took him a month to write the book, but that was six years ago. He never could get a publisher to commit. However, a few months ago, he ran into a Phoenix Books exec who liked the idea and said they'd publish it but only if Levine could turn out the book in time for the rapidly approaching graduation gift season. Of course, that was no problem. Maybe Levine's book should include another "never" such as never toss an unpublished manuscript.


Booyeon Lee contributed to this column. Todd Cunningham is assistant managing editor of the Business Journal and can be reached at tcunningham@labusinessjournal.com .

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