John Thain's Quest for Redemption Continues

cityfile · 10/02/09 08:37AM

Former Merrill Lynch CEO John Thain is no friend of Ken Lewis, the outgoing chief executive of Bank of America. Thain worked with Lewis last year to engineer the merger of Merrill and BofA, but was kicked to the curb shortly after the deal was complete and almost instantly turned into the fall guy for the messy merger, at least in the version of events that Lewis recounted to analysts, reporters, and government officials.

Happy Birthday

cityfile · 05/26/09 06:32AM

Merrill Lynch's disgraced CEO, John Thain, turns 53 today. Rocker Lenny Kravitz is turning 45. Helena Bonham Carter turns 43. Matt Stone, the co-creator of South Park, is turning 38. Stevie Nicks is 61. Mega-lawyer and Cravath partner Robert D. Joffe is 66. Socialite Annie Churchill is turning 38. Architect Bruce Fowle is 72. Pam Grier (Foxy Brown) turns 60. North Carolina Senator Kay Hagan is turning 56. Comedian "Bobcat" Goldthwait is 47. And Philip Michael Thomas of Miami Vice fame celebrates his 60th birthday today.

Wall Street: Monday Morning

cityfile · 04/27/09 05:56AM

John Thain is striking back at Bank of America in an effort "to restore his sullied reputation," and accusing BofA's CEO, Ken Lewis, of lying. [WSJ]
• Thanks to rising profits, employees at several banks are on track to earn as much money this year as they did before the financial crisis. [NYT]
• UBS's head of investment banking, Jerker Johansson, is stepping down. [DB]
Steve Rattner caught a break on Friday when Quadrangle Group investors decided not to shut down his scandal-plagued fund. [NYT, NYP]

Welcome to the Party, Life Insurers

cityfile · 04/08/09 05:38AM

• The Treasury is expected to announce in the next few days that it will be extending bailout funds to a handful of life insurance companies. [WSJ]
• Brian Moynihan, who took over Merrill Lynch after John Thain was ousted, is emerging as a potential successor to Bank of America chief Ken Lewis. [WSJ]
• Not that Lewis necessarily needs to be replaced, at least according to Meredith Whitney, who (bizarrely) says Lewis has "done a great job." [BN]
• Blackstone, KKR, and Carlyle are in the running to acquire the mobile phone operations that Verizon Wireless is selling now that it's acquired Alltel. [BN]
• Looks like Jim Cramer has a new enemy. Nouriel Roubini is calling the CNBC star "a buffoon," and Cramer has since responded in kind, of course. [NYP]

It's All Harvard's Fault

cityfile · 03/23/09 01:01PM

If you're outraged about the current state of the economy and you need an outlet for your anger, you may want to catch a bus to Boston instead of taking one to visit the homes of AIG executives. Just a few of the names in the press these days who happen to be graduates of Harvard Business School: Former Merrill Lynch chiefs Stan O'Neal and John Thain, former treasury secretaries Bob Rubin and Hank Paulson, General Motors CEO Rick Wagoner, and Bernie Madoff enabler Ezra Merkin. [Clusterstock]

Vikram Pandit Will Have to Get His Zen Elsewhere

cityfile · 03/20/09 08:44AM

When it was revealed in late January that John Thain spent $1.2 million renovating his office at Merrill Lynch in early 2008—back before the global financial meltdown was truly upon us—people were up in arms. Such a stupid move! So tone deaf! When it was reported yesterday that Citigroup CEO Vikram Pandit was getting his office redecorated, like, now? Well, it's good thing the news broke when everyone was consumed with the mess over at AIG, huh?

AIG In the Crosshairs—Again

cityfile · 03/16/09 05:33AM

• Is AIG officially the most despised company in America? Following the disclosure over the weekend that execs planned to go ahead with $165 million in bonuses to top execs comes word that a good deal of the billions in bailout money it received went to banks like Goldman Sachs ($12.9 billion), Merrill Lynch ($6.8 billion), and Bank of America ($5.2 billion). [BN, NYT, WSJ]
• Larry Summers: "There are a lot of terrible things that have happened in the last 18 months, but what's happened at AIG is the most outrageous." [BN]
• UBS plans to cut another 5,000 jobs. [Reuters]

Small Business ♥ Bankers

cityfile · 02/27/09 10:58AM

"People need to be encouraged to start spending again," Michael Gross writes, especially the masters of the universe—such as John Thain, left—who made a mint during the boom years and then led us into this mess. So how do we go about doing that? Not by shunning them, or requiring them to take their fortunes and turn the cash over to the government. (It would probably be wasted on Citigroup anyway.) Maybe we could just force them to pump the cash into the local economy?

The Noose Tightens at Citigroup, AIG

cityfile · 02/25/09 07:11AM

• Citi chief Vikram Pandit is still working out the details of a rescue package that would turn over as much as 40% of the bank to the federal government. He'd really love to hang on to his job as part of the deal, though. [WSJ]
• In a last-ditch effort to raise cash, Citigroup is looking to sell off both its Japanese investment bank and brokerage. [Reuters]
John Thain "sneaked in a side door" to answer Andrew Cuomo's questions for a second time on Tuesday, and provide more detail on the billions in bonuses Merrill Lynch handed out just before the firm was acquired by BofA. [NYDN]
• AIG is now facing two "distasteful" options: sell "prized assets to competitors or hand over a big part of its business to the federal government." [NYT]
• Connecticut is planning legislation to regulate the hedge fund industry. [DB]
• You can thank Ben Bernacke for the Dow's rally yesterday. [NYT]
• Existing-home sales tumbled to a nearly 12-year low in January, and prices took a double-digit drop. [WSJ]

The Rescue of Citi, Thain's Return to the Hot Seat

cityfile · 02/24/09 07:30AM

• As part of the rescue plan currently under discussion in Washington, the government would end up with 40 percent of Citigroup, which isn't quite the same as nationalizing it, but is pretty darn close. [NYT]
• JPMorgan Chase cut its dividend to a nickel yesterday. [AP]
John Thain spent six hours answering Andrew Cuomo's questions last week. But he'll make a return visit this week now that a judge has ruled Thain has to provide more detail on Merrill's controversial bonus payouts. [Reuters]
• AIG needs more government money. Feel free to laugh or cry about this. [DB]
• UBS may end up going to court as it tries to fight an order to disclose the names of its American clients suspected of offshore tax evasion. [NYT]
• Allen Stanford had ties to Joe Biden's brother and son, apparently. [WSJ]
• A bankrupt Lehman Brothers is spinning off its venture capital arm. [WSJ]
• Home prices in 20 U.S. cities declined an average of 18.5% in December. [BN]
• Federal chairman Ben Bernanke says the recession should end this year and 2010 "will be a year of recovery," if the banking system's stabilized. Reassuring words, provided you still believe anything Bernanke has to say. [WSJ]

Washington's New Bailout, UBS Stays in the Game

cityfile · 02/09/09 06:39AM

• Details about the Obama administration's plan to revise the bailout are still sketchy, but more will be revealed by Tim Geithner tomorrow. [WSJ, BN, DB]
• UBS is slashing bonuses by 80 percent, but the bank says it does not have plans to get out of investment banking altogether. [BN]
• Barclays announced that quarterly profits exceeded analysts' estimates. [BN]
• More trouble for Bill Ackman's Pershing Square Capital. [DB, NYP]
• Goldman chief Lloyd Blankfein addresses what went wrong on Wall Street in a op-ed piece for the Financial Times. [FT, FT]
• Sunday's New York Times, meanwhile, provides an account of what went wrong between Merrill's John Thain and BofA's Ken Lewis. [NYT]

Kate's New Career Goal, Michael Phelps Apologizes

cityfile · 02/02/09 06:53AM

• Kate Moss has been telling friends that she wants to branch out into acting so she can become a "Hollywood star," and that she's already lined up an agent in New York. [Showbiz Spy]
• Michael Phelps has issued an apology after photos appeared this weekend in the News of the World showing him smoking weed. [NYP, NOTW]
• Bernie Madoff's grandkids are considering changing their last names. [P6]
John Thain was hardly the first or the last: Clive Davis, Martin Bandier, and Rolf Schmidt-Holtz have all spent obscene amounts in recent years to redecorate their offices, too. [R&M]
• Despite the fact her magazine is losing millions and has laid off dozens, Portfolio's Joanne Lipman insisted on flying first class to Davos. [P6]

Ken Sunshine Forced to Do His Own Damage Control

cityfile · 01/28/09 06:59AM

Ken Sunshine sure isn't having a good week. The celebrity publicist famous for working with A-listers like Leonardo DiCaprio and Justin Timberlake has been helping former Merrill Lynch CEO John Thain defend himself this week. Sunshine's work on Thain's behalf hasn't gone so well, of course: Thain had trouble mustering much of a defense during his chat on Monday with Maria Bartiromo, and the CNBC hostess clearly avoided holding Thain's feet to the fire. You'd think Sunshine could have arranged for things to go down a bit more smoothly! It turns out that Maria is a Sunshine client, too, and he was the one who set up the big "exclusive." [WSJ, Page Six]

Wells Takes a Loss, Steve Schwarzman Dreams On

cityfile · 01/28/09 06:13AM

• Wells Fargo reported a $2.55 billion loss for the fourth quarter; it also said recently acquired Wachovia lost $11 billion during the period. [BN, WSJ]
Steve Schwarzman says it's a "wonderful time" for the industry, despite the fact his net worth has dropped by $7 billion in recent months. [BN]
Andrew Cuomo has subpoenaed former Merrill chief John Thain. [WSJ]
• Wall Street bonuses dropped 44% in 2008. [BN]
• Bank of America's board of directors is now feeling the heat. [NYT]
• It was Tim Geithner who convinced Citi to scrap plans to buy a new jet. [FT]
• Lunch with T. Boone Pickens: now up for auction on Ebay. [DB]

John and Jocelyn: Compare and Contrast

cityfile · 01/27/09 04:40PM

We never really considered that John Thain and Jocelyne Wildenstein had much in common. One's a former Wall Street star who has seen his career accomplishments overshadowed by lousy decisions during the financial crisis. The other is a woman who spends her days visiting plastic surgeons and spreading cream across her freaky, cat-like face. But a reader sent us this picture with the title "one and the same," and we do see a bit of a resemblance, strangely. Maybe it's just because they're both shining examples of excess? Who knows. But you can click on the photo above to see close-ups of the two and decide for yourself.

Jen's Plans for Oscar Night, A-Rod's Mysterious Travels

cityfile · 01/27/09 06:52AM

• Is Jennifer Aniston planning to steal the spotlight away from Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie at the Oscars by showing up to the ceremony with John Mayer and with a ring on her finger? Maybe! [Star]
Alex Rodriguez either spent last weekend hanging out with Madonna at Jerry and Jessica Seinfeld's East Hampton mansion, or he spent it partying with Bill Clinton and Spike Lee in the Bahamas, depending on what you read. [P6, NYDN]
• Lindsay Lohan's rep says LiLo can't be anorexic since she "ate two full meals" during a recent photo shoot. It's settled! [P6]
Gwyneth Paltrow's mom says 800 people have already joined her daughter's Tribeca gym, which hasn't even been finished yet. [NYDN]

John Thain Tries to Explain, Fails

cityfile · 01/26/09 05:13PM

Why did former Merrill Lynch CEO John Thain spend $1.2 million renovating his office when he took from Stan O'Neal at the firm? It was because O'Neal's office was "very different," and it would have been "very difficult" to use it in the "form that is was in." We're not sure what that means either. A clip from Thain's awkward chat with CNBC's Maria Bartiromo earlier today appears after the jump.