John Thain wasn’t quite straight with an audience at Wharton when he discussed the million redecorating scandal, if a report of his remarks is accurate.
He reportedly told them that one of the reasons he had to redecorate was that there was no conference room in the executive suite at Merrill Lynch, as we told you earlier today,
“Since you brought it up, I’ll talk about my office,” Thain said, according to an audience member. “I joined Merrill Lynch before we knew the world was ending. My office had a giant desk in the middle and was not configured to receive any clients or staff. There was no conference room because it had been converted into a private gym.”
A source familiar with the situation says this is hogwash. The same conference room that has been used for 25 years by Merrill chiefs was there when Thain arrived. It is described as beautifully decorated and very classic.
The room that Thain redecorated as a private dining room, complete with a $13,000 chandelier in the private dining room and six dining chairs for which Merrill paid $37,000, was basically a spare room off the huge CEO office on the 32nd floor. It had indeed been used by Stan O’Neal as a kind of personal gym, albeit a highly modest one with little more than an exercise bike and a television. O’Neal took his meals in his office or with other executives in the main executive dining room.