Merrill Lynch Hopes John Thain Will Be the Piper Who Leads Them to Reason

Thain And he’s buying the Stairway to Heaven. Photo: Getty Images

Mother Merrill’s devoted sons (and daughters) may be a little bit freaked that the board has named NYSE CEO John Thain, whose background includes a dozen years at their archrival Goldman Sachs, the new CEO of Merrill Lynch. “It’s shocking [they picked] someone from a Goldman Sachs background,” the bank’s former CEO Dan Tully told the Journal today. Tully also said Thain didn’t seem to be a “folksy” “people person” consistent with the culture of Merrill. “I understand he’s very cerebral,” he said. Au contraire, Monsieur Tully! You must have missed New York’s seminal profile of Thain back in January. “I did not grow up in an upper-crust, aristocratic background,” Thain explained. In fact, he grew up in Antioch, Illinois, where he went to public school and was on the wrestling team. It doesn’t get much folksier than that! Plus, it’s pretty much guaranteed that Thain’s risk-management skills will bring Merrill back from the brink of disaster, so … A note to folks over at Merrill, if you’d like to bond with the boss, here’s a tip: Zeppelin. Dude loves Jimmy Page — he even has one of his autographed guitars, from the day Warner Music went public. “He played the guitar section of ‘Whole Lotta Love’ and timed the final chord for the bell,” Thain told New York “with uncharacteristic enthusiasm.” So may we suggest a few rounds of Guitar Hero? Hey, it worked for Serena and Vanessa on Gossip Girl.

Merrill Taps Thain as CEO [WSJ]
Related: Who Is NYSE CEO John Thain? [NYM]