The Daily Beast (where I also write a column) columnist and CNBC reporter Charlie Gasparino reports that Merrill Lynch CEO John Thain spent $1.22 million to redecorate his office last year while the company slashed jobs and fought for its survival.
Citing documents obtained by the site, Gasparino reports that the company spent $800,000 "to hire famed celebrity designer Michael Smith, who is currently redesigning the White House for the Obama family for just $100,000."
I was going to make a reference to former Tyco CEO Dennis Kozlowski and the $6,000 shower curtain, but one of Gasparino's sources beat me to it. Thain's version of an emperor's office includes:
- Area Rug: $87,784
- Pair of chairs: $28,091
- Pendant Light Fixture: $19,751
Now, $1.22 million is not a material amount of money given the scope of Merrill's problems, but it is indicative of how out of touch and arrogant John Thain was and presumably is. The fact he spent $230,000 in one year on a single driver will also do little to muster political support for additional bailout initiatives, and gives a huge amount of ammunition to the "Tell Wall Street to go to hell" crowd.
Not a good move, Mr. Thain, not a good move. If he has any class he'll offer to reimburse the company for those expenses, but I doubt that he will. Even if he does, it's too late.