Willard C. Butcher, the former chairman and chief executive of the Chase Manhattan Corporation, who led the bank during a period of international growth in the 1980s, died on Saturday at his home in Hobe Sound, Fla. He was 85.
The cause was kidney cancer, said Fraser P. Seitel, a former spokesman for Chase.
Mr. Butcher joined Chase National, the predecessor to Chase Manhattan, in 1947, starting as a junior executive in the bank's Midtown Manhattan retail branches. In 1969 he moved to international operations, which he eventually ran. In 1972, David Rockefeller Sr., then Chase's chief executive, named him the bank's president and chief operating officer.
He succeeded Mr. Rockefeller as chief executive in 1980 and became chairman the next year. At the time, Chase was the country's third-largest bank in assets, behind Citicorp and the Bank of America.
Mr. Butcher had big shoes to fill, replacing a man who personified the aristocratic banker-statesman. "Two weeks from now, the institution that came to be known as 'David's Bank' will become 'Bill Butcher's Bank,' " said an article in The New York Times just before he took over.
Under Mr. Butcher's leadership, Chase started operations in more than 50 countries, including China, Egypt and the Soviet Union.
Mr. Rockefeller, 97, said in a statement that Mr. Butcher was "a close friend and valued colleague, who, when he succeeded me as chairman of The Chase, worked tirelessly to enhance the bank's position around the world."
Chase's push into foreign markets came at a cost. By 1990, the bank was saddled with hundreds of millions of dollars in losses from bad loans made in less developed countries like Brazil. He faced other challenges during his tenure, as large corporations began to raise money through the securities markets and shun the more traditional route of borrowing from banks.
A burly man with a booming voice, Mr. Butcher became a leading critic of the hostile takeovers and junk-bond financing that had come to characterize that era on Wall Street.
"A lot of these 'leveragers' and 'greenmailers' are undermining the fundamental structure of our economy," he said in a 1985 interview. "Other than maximizing short-term profits for the speculators, these activities don't add any intrinsic wealth to the country."
After Mr. Butcher's retirement in 1991, Chase began an aggressive expansion through mergers, combining with the Chemical Banking Corporation in 1996 and then J. P. Morgan in 2000.
Willard Carlisle Butcher was born on Oct. 25, 1926, in Bronxville, N.Y., and grew up in nearby Scarsdale. His father was an executive at Consolidated Edison, his mother a Greek and Latin teacher.
Mr. Butcher started his college studies at Middlebury College before a stint in the Navy. After his military service, he enrolled at Brown University, graduating in 1947 and later serving for many years on its board.
After stepping down, Mr. Butcher continued his involvement at Chase, serving as vice chairman of the Chase International Advisory Committee. He was also on the boards of several organizations and companies, including the American Enterprise Institute, the Museum of Modern Art, Firestone Tire and Rubber, International Paper and Texaco.
Twice widowed, Mr. Butcher is survived by his wife of 33 years, Carole McMahon Butcher, who was working in Chase's special events department when they met; two sons, John and Willard Jr.; three daughters, Sarah Garonzik, Helen Bennet and Barbara Uboe; and 11 grandchildren.
An American history buff, Mr. Butcher once likened his fierce devotion to Chase to Robert E. Lee's undying loyalty to the South. "No one should go into the chairman's role," he said, "unless he is willing to devote his life to the organization."