Not that it’s John Thain’s fault. It’s the mountain of crap he inherited on the balance sheet from Stan O’Neal. In any event, the Merrill CEO expects horrendous market conditions to persist into 2009. Louise Story:
The numbers are staggering. During the past 12 months, Merrill, known for its “Thundering Herd” of stockbrokers, has lost about $19.2 billion, which works out to about $52 million a day. It suffered $9.7 billion of write-downs in its latest quarter, bringing its charges since the credit crisis first flared last summer to more than $41 billion.
It is quite a comedown for Mr. Thain, 53, who won praise for revitalizing the embattled New York Stock Exchange before taking the top job at Merrill.
The firm’s problems underscore how bankers and policy makers are struggling to contain the damage to the financial system and the broader economy caused by the collapse of housing-related debt.
“I’m generally a very optimistic guy, but this is as difficult a market environment as I’ve seen in my entire career,” Mr. Thain said in an interview Thursday evening. The turmoil in the markets, he said, was likely to persist into next year.
The media is trying to hang Thain on the “I said we had enough capital” petard–the same one that felled Erin Callan at Lehman. Despite the horrific losses, Merrill’s in better shape than Lehman, and Thain deserves more time.
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