John Thain: A Business Model for Executive Exits

Sep.15.08 | About: Merrill Lynch (MER)

Well that's it then. Lehman has now filed for bankruptcy, or at least its holding company has. As one European Bank official said somewhat plaintively to the Wall Street Journal as he looked to tomorrow's trading, "We are in the hands of the Americans". Indeed we are.

Interestingly, at almost the same time as that crossed the wire, making it official, the BofA/Merrill tie-up crossed too. Calling the combined outfit a "unique financial services firm", however, strikes me as praising it with faint damns. Nevertheless, BofA (NYSE:BAC) expects the deal to close in the first half of 2009, and there is no mention of break fees/terms.

[Update] Speaking of Merrill MER), Dealbook over at the NYT points out something interesting. With this deal, Merrill CEO John Thain's employment contract change of control clause will be triggered, and he will exit Merrill after merely ten months on the job with $25-million in total compensation.

That's impressive enough, but it's doubly so when you consider he got packaged out of the NYSE with just shy of $20-million not quite a year ago. Apparently Thain has turned executive exits into a business model.