It looks like it's Merrill Lynch that is nabbing New York Stock Exchange chief executive John Thain.
The New York Post has just reported that Merrill is expected to announce that it has hired Thain to replace ousted CEO Stan O'Neal sometime this afternoon. Zach Kouwe, whose reporting has scooped the world on this story, attributes it to "people familiar with the matter."
An NYSE board meeting is scheduled for 2 p.m. today and an announcement could come after the market closes, sources said. The move is a huge coup for Merrill and board member Alberto Cribiore, who has led the search for a new CEO after O'Neal resigned on Oct. 30.
Kouwe also reports that Citi wanted Thain but he chose the smaller, more narrowly focussed Merrill instead. The Post describes this as a "snub" for Citi. NYSE Chief Operating Officer Duncan Niederauer is expected to land the top job at the exchange.
Citi Snub: Thain Going To Merrill [New York Post]
Update 12:32: The Wall Street Journal files its report also: "John Thain, CEO of NYSE Euronext, has agreed to take the top post at brokerage house Merrill Lynch & Co., according to a person familiar with the matter."
Update 12:39: Congratulations and thanks to all our readers who voted in this morning's reader poll, which correctly called that John Thain would leave the NYSE for Merrill. We're constantly gratified by the amazing accuracy of our polls, which have predicted everything from the level of Fed rate cuts to this news. We like to think we have the best informed, most intelligent readers but it's nice to see you guys prove it over and over again.
Update 12:50: So what happened to Blackrock chief Larry Fink, the man many thought would eventually be Stan O'Neal replacement? Did he turn the job down? Was the board's enthusiasm for him exaggerated? Some fear of subprime contagion? Loyalty to Blackrock?
Update 1:06: CNBC's Charlie Gasparino says that Fink was offered the job, but he spooked the Merrill board by demanding a full-accounting of Merrill's subprime exposure. This led the board to go in another direction, perhaps out of fear that Fink might turn down the job if the subprime exposure was too bad.
Update 2:01: The Journal confirms that the stock exchange will name
Duncan Niederaueras its new CEO.