John Thain, head of NYSE Euronext, to Take Top Job at Merrill

Discussion in 'Wall St. News' started by crgarcia, Nov 14, 2007.

  1. Thain to Take Top Job at Merrill
    November 14, 2007 6:02 p.m.

    John Thain, head of NYSE Euronext, has been given the top post at brokerage house Merrill Lynch, the company announced Wednesday.

    The move, effective Dec. 1, was somewhat unexpected, as many insiders on Wall Street were speculating Merrill Lynch's board would tap BlackRock Inc. CEO Larry Fink. Earlier Wednesday, however, a Merrill spokeswoman said Mr. Fink "was never offered the job" as Merrill CEO.

    NYSE Euronext plans to name Duncan Niederauer, its co-chief operating officer and president, as its new CEO, according to people familiar with the matter. An announcement is expected later Wednesday. (See related article.)

    Alberto Cribiore, Merrill's search-committee chairman, called Mr. Thain "the right person to become the new chairman and CEO of Merrill Lynch." Mr. Thain, he added, will be "adept at balancing the focus on risk management and controls while taking the steps necessary to ensure the company evolves and grows."

    Mr. Thain said: "I am excited and honored to have the opportunity to lead such an outstanding organization. … I look forward to working with an incredibly talented group of people with a terrific brand and reputation."

    With the move, Merrill has chosen an ex-Goldman Sachs Group executive that remade the Big Board into a public company and has deep knowledge of technology and operations on Wall Street. Mr. Thain has never led a giant brokerage force like Merrill's, however. The white-shoe Goldman, where Mr. Thain spent more than 20 years, never focused on brokers that dealt with the masses.

    Mr. Thain, 52 years old, has spent many years on the mortgage bond desks of Wall Street, a key skill considering that many of the billions of dollars in losses are now focused in bonds and the housing market. Mr. Thain worked on the mortgage bond desk of Goldman before becoming president of the firm after a series of promotions.

    "He's got investment-banking experience, and no one has thought the NYSE was a career position for him," Richard Repetto, an analyst that covers NYSE for Sandler O'Neill, said recently in a discussion about Mr. Thain's next move.

    Mr. Thain was also rumored to be considering the top job at Citigroup to fill the spot of former Chairman and CEO Chuck Prince. But Mr. Thain has remarked in the past that he wasn't that interested in the Citi job, viewing it as a very difficult management challenge, according to people familiar with the matter.

    Some thought Mr. Thain would still lean toward Citigroup, considering that the firm has a big international presence, something Mr. Thain pushed hard for at the NYSE when it bought European exchange operator Euronext NV. Mr. Thain also forged alliances over the years with Robert Rubin, previously Goldman's co-chairman and now a senior executive at Citigroup.

    The choice is likely to come as a shock to some executives at Merrill Lynch, many of whom believed Mr. Fink was the front-runner based on his experience with debt management as founder and chief of BlackRock, of which Merrill owns 49%.

    Mr. Fink was approached as a candidate for the job following the resignation of Stan O'Neal on October 30, according to people familiar with the search, and was believed to have been a leading contender.

    The board had also said it would consider internal candidates led by co-president Gregory Fleming, a former investment banker, and one question about the Thain appointment is whether it raises the risk of more defections from both the banking side as well as the firm's brokerage force. Some top Merrill brokers had sought a senior role for brokerage chief Bob McCann.

    The Illinois native and son of a doctor, Mr. Thain studied engineering at MIT and quickly got a masters' in business at Harvard before starting a career on Wall Street. He has developed a reputation as a chief executive as a patient consensus builder who asks penetrating, often technical questions, about how things work. As a child growing up, he assembled a Heathkit radio for his mother.

    Mr. Thain has also been discussed by some as interested in working in Washington, but the campaign woes of his preferred presidential candidate, John McCain, has reduced the likelihood of that career option.

    The decision by Mr. Thain leaves NYSE Euronext with its first new leader since former CEO Dick Grasso left amid an outcry over his pay package in 2003. While it has become a more diversified business since Mr. Thain arrived, NYSE has also lost market share in the trading of its own stock to electronic players like Nasdaq Stock Market Inc.

    Mr. Thain said he always viewed the NYSE job as a public-service role where he could help reform an important American financial institution. He also said he saw his role there as one that could play out within three-to-five years of his arrival at the exchange in early 2004. Since then, Mr. Thain increased electronic trading at NYSE and changed it into a public company from a membership organization owned by brokerage firms and trading firms.

    --Randall Smith and Mike Barris contributed to this report.

    Write to Aaron Lucchetti at
  2. how much market share did nyse lose under thain?

    nice job.
  3. AAA30


    All ML executives to use New "ML Hybrid beeper system"TM. Rotary phones and connection "specialists" will be used to operate switchboard.
  4. Mr. Thain's biggest question going forward here is not what blue suit to wear but which red tie.

    Welcome to the civil service of brokerage firm's Mr. Thain. I'm sure you'll fit in nicely.

    Please leave your cojones at the door before entering.