Kicking Stan O’Neal When He’s Down

O'NealPhoto: Getty Images

Former Merrill Lynch CEO Stan O’Neal takes a beating in Portfolio’s profile of his replacement John Thain in their May issue. Thain, whose past offenses include putting the little-old-man house barber at the New York Stock Exchange out on the street and allegedly eating jelly on his bagels, comes off looking like Superman compared to O’Neal’s sniveling Lex Luthor. Sure, it’s not exactly news that O’Neal, who was fired in October of last year, was disliked, but writer Gary Weiss paints the scorn his former colleagues feel for him vividly: The brokers there “despised” him, the subprime-mortgage ventures he presided over were “freakishly ill-advised,” in particular his acquisition of subprime “monstrosity” First Republic, which was “viewed as exhibiting all the strategic wisdom of a foray into Havana real estate in 1959.” Former Merrill executive VP Win Smith gives the dagger a twist: “He was a mean person, a disrespectful person, and he drove out thousands of years of experience,” he told the magazine. Yeeks. You almost feel bad for him — at least until you remember that he walked away with a $160 million severance package immediately after the bank suffered the largest losses in history. Eh, well. Cry on your pile o’ money, O’Neal.

The Taming of Merrill Lynch [Portfolio]