Erstwhile Merrill Lynch CEO Stan O'Neal had his own private elevator at corporate headquarters. After being deposited at a separate, ground floor entrance by his liveried driver, Mr. O'Neal would stroll into 'his' elevator and zoom upwards to his world-class corner office on the 32nd floor. When he was done mastering the universe for the day, good ol' Stan would take a few steps, push the elevator button, descend down and be met by his driver. All in all, not a bad day.
But, O'Neal was canned after racking up some $30b in toxic assets and trying to sell Merrill without the board's knowledge. He was replaced by former NYSE CEO John Thain who, upon hearing of O'Neal's private elevator, declared it “…ludicrous.” Thain wanted to demonstrate his Midwestern, common man roots, so he began riding up and down in the same elevators as the hoi palloi. Goodness gracious! Such sacrifice.
Ah, but according to Greg Farrell's page-turning 'The Crash of the Titans,' JayThay was no slouch himself when it came to excess. Along with his PR henchwoman, Margaret Tutwiler, Thain completely gutted O'Neal's corner office and refurbished it to the tune of $1.2m (all this while Merrill was capsizing under a crushing debt). JayThay's also the stand-up dude who decided to pay all the Merrill executives huge, year-end bonuses with government TARP monies. That sly maneuver cost him his job when Bank of America CEO Ken Lewis, who had just bought Thain's Merrill at a fire sale price, found out.
I miss the wanton greed of those egomaniacal Wall Street CEOs of yesteryear. I'm sure the current crop still buy themselves $4,000 commode seats and $100,000 area rugs, but the Kublai Khan types such as O'Neal, Thain and convicted felon Dennis Kozlowski, seem like a distant, if fond, memory.
So, in an effort to fill the breach and re-position PR executives as masters of the universe in our own right, I've decided on the following:
– A full-time butler. Sure, I'm dressed in business casual most of the time, but one never knows when a suit-and-tie prospect will come a knocking. And, I'll need Jeeves on the payroll to assure I'm neatly pressed and ready to impress.
– My own elevator. I may only travel five floors, but I need to make a statement.
– A full-time assistant for my assistant. O'Neal and Thain each had multiple assistants to assist their other assistants, so why can't I? Effective immediately, Dandy assumes the title of executive vice president (hey, if Margaret Tutwiler could hold that title at Merrill, and be responsible solely for “…burnishing John Thain's image,” then so can Dandy). Hey Dandy, maybe Mags could be your assistant? She may be in need of employment.
– A liveried driver behind the wheel of a Maybach. Thain paid his driver $225k, plus bonuses for overtime. That seems fair. I'm tired of cabbies. A master of the universe needs coddling. But, I'll call my driver Jimbo, instead of James. I also need to project a more down-to-earth image and Jimbo seems more accessible.
I have many more wants and needs but, based upon the outrage caused by the excesses of Messrs, O'Neal, Thain and Kozkowlski, I'm guessing I'll only have about 10 months or so before being kicked out and handed a golden parachute similar in size to theirs (say, $187 million, or so).
Edelman and Weber may be vying for “the World's Largest Agency”, but I'll be content with being named “the World's Most Exorbitant.” Note to the various awards' programs: that might make for a nice, new category.