It was always a bit weird that John Thain was going to stay on at Bank of America, but as it turned out, he lasted less than a month before getting fired this morning by the equally-beleaguered Ken Lewis. The important number here is the $15 billion in unexpected losses that Merrill suffered in the fourth quarter, not the $1.2 million that Thain ridiculously spent tarting up his Merrill office. But that’s icing on the cake: the super CEO who worked wonders at both Goldman Sachs and the NYSE — the man whose name was on the shortlist for every financial CEO job in America — is now a national laughingstock.
Thain didn’t get on with his Merrill subordinates, and Gregory Fleming, who left after one too many fights with Thain, is probably wondering right now if there’s any way he can persuade Lewis that he should return. The only real winners in this saga are Merrill’s bondholders, and the employees who got their bonuses before the takeover closed; everybody else is a loser. Including, of course, the taxpayer. Normally it takes at least a few months for disastrous takeovers to be recognized as such; in this case it took only a couple of weeks. Even with Thain gone, Lewis himself is unlikely to last much longer.