On Monday John Thain took to CNBC’s airwaves to attempt to put an end to the controversy over his lavish redecorating of the chief executive’s office at Merrill Lynch. When asked why he felt he needed to redecorate the office, Thain decided to criticise his predecessor.
“Well, heh, um. His office was very different. Than uh, the general decor of Merrill’s offices. It really would have been, uh, very difficult, uh for, uh me to use it in the form it was in,” Thain said.
We’ve been asking: what the Hell was going on in Stan O’Neal’s office that would have made it unusable for Thain? Some have speculated that this might have been some kind of racially loaded statement on Thain’s part. We wondered if O’Neal just had really weird tastes.
Now, at long last, we’ve gotten to the bottom of this mystery that has been rattling the markets. Or, at least, rattling our imaginations.
“O’Neal’s office was perfectly normal,” according to a source who spoke on the condition of anonymity.
The furnishings in the 32nd floor office were described to Clusterstock as “retro-modern.” The desk was a wrap-around, U-shaped affair that allowed O’Neal to keep a computer to one side and have many people sit around and work at the desk alongside him. There was an attractive leather couch. A table had a glass top.
The small conference room that Thain converted into a personal dining room at a cost of $83,000 was used by O’Neal very differently. It had a television and a stationary exercise bicycle. O’Neal, like most executives at Merrill, tended to eat in the dining room on the 33rd floor.
The only unusual items in the office were some African art objects. Those were from O’Neal’s personal collection however. It is thought that O’Neal took those with him, so Thain would not have had to worry about operating in the presence of African art.
So what was it that made Thain’s office unusable? We’re stuck with the conclusion that Thain simply feels like he can’t work unless surrounded by the trappings of an 18th century aristocrat.