The New York Magazine article on New York Stock Exchange CEO John Thain mostly concentrates its energy on the growth of hybrid trading the the expected extinction of specialists and floor traders. Yawn. But it does contain a few gems, including a lede that fantasizes a world in which all the poor and unstylish people have somehow been eliminated and a description of Thain’s role (alleged role? supposed role? suspected role? widely rumored and almost certainly true role) in the ouster of Jon Corzine at Goldman Sachs.
Thain had been a Corzine protégé throughout much of his career. It was Corzine who’d overrode objections to make Thain CFO in 1994. And it was Corzine who’d landed Thain a spot in the firm’s leadership. “[Corzine] was one of his sponsors to move him up to the executive committee,” recalls Zuckerberg. The two men became close. Thain would accompany Corzine on ski trips to Colorado. He and his wife, Carmen, would periodically meet Corzine and his then-wife, Joanne, for dinner in Manhattan.
Then, just like that, the old rapport vanished. By mid-1998, Thain had taken to bad-mouthing his old mentor to colleagues. “His line was that Corzine wanted to go public to entrench himself,” recalls one. That fall, Thain, Thornton, and Paulson appeared to reach an understanding: Paulson would make the case against Corzine and the other two would support him for the CEO job. Soon Paulson was ranting about Corzine as though he’d been a lifelong enemy—and in ways that sounded remarkably similar to Thain’s complaints. Goldman’s 85 Broad Street headquarters had become the backdrop for a high-stakes game of Survivor.
The turning point came when Zuckerberg retired in late November 1998. This left Corzine in the minority on the executive committee, and somewhat inexplicably, he neglected to appoint a replacement. “I told Jon, ‘Put someone else on the executive committee immediately,’ ” says one former ally. “He said he could handle it. I said I didn’t think he was right.” After a few more weeks of squabbling, the troika of Thain, Thornton, and Paulson went to Corzine with a fait accompli: Paulson would replace him as CEO, and Thain and Thornton would become co-COOs. On January 11, 1999, Goldman partners received an e-mail from Paulson and Corzine: “Jon [Corzine] has decided to relinquish the CEO title, while continuing as a Senior Partner and co-Chairman of the firm,” it read. Corzine was reportedly so humiliated that during his final weeks at the firm, he would work from a limousine parked outside the Goldman offices rather than risk contact with the traitors inside.
The Brain in Thain [New York Magazine]