Reports that John Thain told a Wharton audience that there was no conference room attached to the chief executive’s office at Merrill Lynch are inaccurate, a spokesman for John Thain tells us.
To recap: A person at the talk told DealBreaker last week that Thain had claimed he had to redecorate because there was no conference room. We followed DealBreaker’s report with the reactions of a source who said that this wasn’t true: there had been a large conference room in the executive suite for decades.
“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,” Thain said according to DealBreaker’s source.
Thain’s rep says he never said that.
Another attendee at the conference told us he also remembered Thain’s explanation matching the account given to DealBreaker. DealBreaker’s Bess Levin tells us that she spoke with Thain spokesman Jesse Derris and he did not deny the quote.
The alleged claim of the office not being configured to receive any clients or staff also didn’t match with what we were told by people familiar the office who said the large, wrap-around, U-shaped desk that allowed O’Neal to keep a computer to one side and have many people sit around and work at the desk alongside him.
Dennis says these accounts of Thain’s explanation for the redecoration are all wrong, and therefore accusations that he misled the audience were way off base.
“Of course there were four rooms in Mr. Thain’s office suite – he said exactly that during his appearance at Wharton,” Dennis said in an email. “Mr. Thain said that when he took the job at Merrill Lynch, he renovated the four-room suite, which included an office, a conference room, a reception area, and a room that had been used by Mr. O’Neal as a personal gym. Sadly, BusinessInsider.com decided to post its ‘investigation’ before anyone contacted our office and asked if the facts you based your story on were correct.”
We definitely didn’t call Thain’s spokesman before printing the story. We often don’t call PR folks because we don’t usually find talking to them very useful. But if Dennis agrees to give us Thain’s direct number, we’ll gladly check with him before our next story.
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