Friday, January 23, 2009

John Thain: Public Relations Genius


Thain believes in copious press coverage

I've been spending the past couple of days trying to figure just exactly what happened to John Thain's cranium. Is he feeling OK? I mean, did he fall down while skiing in Vail (you know, while the fourth quarter's red ink was being poured over Bank of America CEO Ken Lewis)? Did he bump his head during one of his regular swimming pool laps?

No, I have concluded that Thain is a public relations genius. He believes, as Brendan Behan once put it, that "there is no such thing as bad publicity except your own obituary." So he decided to flood the zone with horrible publicity, even an editorial in the New York Times. Congratulations!

I tend to agree with Henry Blodget that there's a bit of diversionary action going on here, and that Ken Lewis is at least as deserving of being kicked out as Thain. After all, he's the one that brought ruin on B of A by buying Merrill. Thain was just doing what was best for Merrill shareholders, which in this case was bringing ruin to B of A shareholders.

At one time, I suggested that he might have been a fairly good choice for Treasury secretary had John McCain won the election. He's certainly one of the brightest men in finance, and having someone like him at Treasury has a kind of Joe Kennedy-at-the-SEC, put-the-wolf-in-charge-of-the-chicken-coop quality to it (assuming he could have been persuaded to push Obama's agenda, which would have been unlikely).

Unfortunately, he's done such a superb job of shredding his reputation that I'm not sure what kind of position he could get in the Obama administration. Interior decorator?

One thing I will say: it makes sense that he spent $35,000 on a commode. I guess he wanted a fancy new home for his reputation.

© 2009 Gary Weiss. All rights reserved.

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