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Will Thain take an axe to Merrill Lynch?

Will Thain’s reign cause lots of pain?

ML has seen off Citigroup and bagged John Thain for a princely $43.1m. But will Thain prove more grim reaper than knight in shining armour for Merrill’s 64,200 staff?

Rather like the ex-head of the British Conservative party, Thain is rumoured to have something not too sunny about him. According to The Times, he goes by the moniker ‘I Robot’ and has a ruthless streak that saw him do away with former Goldman Sachs mentor Jon Corzine.

If this isn’t enough to make your blood run chilly, the Telegraph reports that Thain has already been forced to deny plans to exterminate 25% of Merrill’s staff.

Its 15,000 retail brokers are thought to be most at risk (given Thain isn’t a big retail brokerage man), together with anyone vaguely implicated in the $2.3bn loss in the third quarter. Unsurprisingly, Merrill’s brokers have been writing letters extolling the virtues of their boss as Thain’s future right hand man; fixed income bankers are probably better off lying low.

But is the new boss really someone to be scared of? Bloomberg reports that Thain has actually made noises about hiring a few senior managers for the trading division (although this means, of course, that a few existing senior managers might need to fall on their swords).

And if nothing else, Thain doesn’t share at least one of his predecessor’s signs of social malfunction: he doesn’t like to play golf on his own.

The reign of Thain: nice or nasty. Share your thoughts here…

Comments (4)

  1. O’Neal built up Merrill’s mortgage and CDO business, just at the wrong time. So stands to reason that Thain needs to get rid of people here. He’d be a fool to layoff people in investment banking or capital markets, both of which have done well recently.

  2. Thain has no reason to feel loyal to anyone at Merrill. Hes already talking about bringing in some of his own people. If I were in senior management I’d be watching my back very carefully right now.

  3. If I was at Merrill’s I would start ordering some tin helmet’s or planning an exit strategy. This is the calm before the storm.

  4. I predict that by this time next year most of Merill’s senior managment will be ex-goldman sachs ppl. Once a Goldmanite always a Goldmanite!! Its the culture!

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