This is no way to start the week but here goes. Charlie Gasparino's latest column for the Daily Beast suggests that the lovefest above is a sham and that Merrill Lynch CEO John Thain and Bank of America CEO Ken Lewis don't even like each other. Also, BAC is apparently having a case of buyer's remorse re: MER (though often professes to fantasize, after a bunch of drinks, that it could "buy Countrywide over and over, multiple times a day"). Sayeth Chaz:
There has been nothing stable and confidence-building about watching these two firms work out their differences. Inside Bank of America, people I speak to say they can't believe what they have gotten into.
And get a load of this (maybe manufactured) DRA-MA:
[During a November breakfast meeting] Thain announced he was staying on--something that surprised many in the room because the CEOs of acquired companies usually leave soon after a deal like this one is completed. In fact, just days after the merger was announced, chatter inside the Merrill executive suite was that Thain was plotting his exit.
Not so, Thain indicated during the meeting. In fact, he began talking about the great opportunities in store for the brokers--and for himself. He mentioned Ken Lewis's age--61--and, according to one broker present, he clearly stated that he was "in the line of succession" to run the nation's largest financial-services empire, something that shocked most of the people in the room. When the brokers left the meeting some three hours later, many were under the impression that Thain had said he believed he was going to replace Lewis as CEO.
Inside Bank of America, senior executives tell me that Lewis is growing increasingly concerned about the management upheaval and Thain's remarks about succession--and he isn't happy. A spokesman for Bank of America declined to comment on Lewis's feelings about Thain or the management losses, but he issued a statement summing up Thain's chances of running BofA this way: "Regarding succession, Ken has said from the day the deal was announced in September that John Thain was a potential contender. He never indicated that he is the favorite and to suggest that would go beyond reality."
As for Thain, who also declined to comment for this article, a Merrill spokeswoman said: "Your assertion is false that Mr. Thain has said he is the likely successor to Ken Lewis."