An Empire Rising in the West

William Simon builds a mighty conglomerate out of ailing thrifts

A 100-ft. Dutch windmill stands tall on the front lawn of William Simon's Long Island summer home. But despite his fondness for the unusual antique, the onetime Treasury Secretary and U.S. energy czar is no Don Quixote of the business world. There is nothing fanciful about his vision of assembling a financial empire in the Pacific Basin. In fact, Simon has helped mold a multibillion-dollar conglomerate that includes the largest savings and loan association in Honolulu and a merchant bank in Los Angeles. Last week an investor group led by Simon agreed to pay $157 million for Western Federal Savings &...