Wells Fargo & Co., the fifth-largest U.S. bank, on Wednesday named John Stumpf chief executive, replacing Richard Kovacevich, who will remain chairman.

Stumpf, 53, has been president and chief operating officer since August 2005, and was long considered to be a leading candidate to replace Kovacevich. Last June, Stumpf joined Kovacevich as the only inside directors on Wells Fargo's board.

The changes are effective immediately. Kovacevich plans to remain with the San Francisco-based company no later than the end of 2008, when he will be 65. He became chief executive in November 1998, when he merged his Norwest Corp. with Wells Fargo, and became chairman in April 2001. Stumpf joined Norwest in 1982, and following the merger with Wells Fargo became head of the southwestern banking group, which comprised Arizona, New Mexico and Texas. Two years later he became head of the larger western banking group, and in 2002 became head of community banking.

Kovacevich and Stumpf have helped drive Wells Fargo's strategy of selling more products per customer, known as cross-selling. The bank has said it sells an average of 5.3 products to each retail customer and six products to each business customer, compared with three each in 1998.

Wells Fargo ended March with $485.9 billion of assets and more than 3,000 branches. It operates mainly in the western two-thirds of the United States.