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Visa names Saunders chief executive

SAN FRANCISCO, May 15 (UPI) -- Visa International Inc. Tuesday named U.S. credit card industry veteran Joseph Saunders its chief executive officer as the bank-owned cooperative goes public.

Saunders, 61, who was also named chairman, will oversee Visa as it forms Visa Inc. and becomes a public company through a series of mergers involving Visa Canada, Visa USA and Visa International, the San Francisco-based umbrella organization said.

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Rival MasterCard Inc., based in Purchase, N.Y., had a successful initial public offering a year ago.

Saunders was asked by Visa in February to help it recruit a new chief executive.

"After a thorough CEO search effort, it became clear to us that Visa already had the right candidate for the job," board Chairman William Campbell said.

Before joining Visa, Saunders was president of card services for Washington Mutual Inc. after it bought Providian Financial Corp., one of the leading U.S. credit card issuers, in 2005. As Providian's chief executive, he oversaw Providian's post-recession turnaround in 2001 and 2002.

From 1997 to 2001, he was chairman and CEO of Fleet Credit Card Services at FleetBoston Financial Corp.

Visa rang up $4.6 trillion in transactions last year, up 14 percent from 2005. MasterCard Inc. had about $2 trillion in 2006 transactions.

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