The mere words of robo-hunk John Thain were enough to cause Merrill Lynch stock to climb 7.1 percent yesterday by the end of trading. The new CEO delivered his first address to shareholders and bolstered confidence by being pragmatic about the company’s losses after the mortgage crisis. He remains a believer in “the strength in the business of Merrill Lynch, the strength in the brand of Merrill Lynch, and the strength of the culture,” he explained. He also assuaged fears that he would try to spin off Merrill’s brokerage from the bank, sell their near 50 percent stock in BlackRock, or sell their passive 20 percent ownership of Bloomberg. Another worry on shareholders’ minds was that he might jump ship for a Cabinet position with John McCain (on whose finance committee he serves) if the Republican candidate wins the presidency. He told the assembled group that he plans to do none of those things. We, for one, believe him and believe in his heroic efforts to save his company — if only because we’ve always wanted to Photoshop his head on a vintage Superman’s body. It just looks like it belongs, no?
Merrill’s Thain Calls Criticism `20/20 Hindsight’ [Bloomberg]