Merrill In Chaos!Who's Running Things There Right Now?

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Almost everyone expected Merrill Lynch to make an announcement about the fate of its chief executive—and his replacement—before the market opened today. We actually worked the phones and our electronic mail messaging system over the weekend—no small task, considering that our weekend started with a voyage to Blackout Island on Thursday night and sailed through Friday Night Fights, too many Halloween parties, football all day Sunday and finally landed on the island of Red Sox nation Sunday night—on the premise that the board would want to resolve this thing soon rather than later.
And by all accounts, they do want to resolve it sooner rather than later. But chaos is reigning over at the Mothership. It's clear that the thundering herd is stampeding but no-one is sure where. One indicator of chaos has been their press office. When a firm has its act together, these people respond with the annoying precision of, well, corporate press officers. But they have to know the company line spin it off the reel and right now it's clear that they don't know it. Who is in charge? Who's getting tapped by the board? When? In our addled imagination, it's like that scene from airplane when the pilot asks the passengers not to panic. Your guess is probably as good as theirs is.
Speaking of which, who do you think gets tapped? Leave your nominations in the comments section below and we'll do a poll later this morning. Some of the more obvious candidates: A number of names currently under consideration are well known, including Laurence Fink (runs BlackRock, upside: well-liked by investors, downside: but may not want to step into a snake pit), Gregory Fleming (Merrill's co-president, upside: already in place, downside: board may want new blood), John Thain (head of NYSE, upside: Goldman minted leader, downside: Goldman minted leader), and Bob McCann (king of the brokers, upside: has a loyal following inside the Mothership, downside: may have too much of Stan's blood on his hands.)
Update 10:20 AM: Paul Kedrosky complains that the list of usual suspects of potential successor chief executives at Merrill consists of "gray and boring" candidates.
"What Merrill needs is someone better, someone with fresh ideas, someone more telegenic, someone with less subprime baggage .... hmmm, me!" he writes.
He adds that he has one qualification that most others seem to lack. "I have no specific ideas about what I would do at Merrill, so I have that blankness going for me, and I can promise with complete assurance that I wouldn't try to sell the company without asking my board first. What more could you ask for?" Kedrosky adds.
We'd nominate our Bess Levin but someone once told us that chief executives have to sign contracts with moral turpitude clauses, and just knowing the rest of DealBreaker's editorial staff probably disqualifies her.

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