Thain mulls move to private equity

NEW YORK Tue Nov 17, 2009 6:54pm EST

Former chief executive of Merrill Lynch, John Thain, speaks at the Reuters Global Finance Summit in New York November 17, 2009. REUTERS/Brendan McDermid

Former chief executive of Merrill Lynch, John Thain, speaks at the Reuters Global Finance Summit in New York November 17, 2009.

Credit: Reuters/Brendan McDermid

NEW YORK (Reuters) - Former Merrill Lynch Chief Executive John Thain is exploring his next move, which could possibly be to a private equity firm or perhaps a public company.

While he has not yet decided which route he will end up pursuing, Thain said that he is looking for a position that is "interesting and challenging."

"I'm really exploring a number of different opportunities; there's a whole range of private equity types of things that I'm looking at, and I wouldn't be adverse to an opportunity in a public company if one were to come along," Thain said at the Reuters Global Finance Summit in New York.

"I like dealmaking, but I also like building things," he said. Thain would also consider a role outside the financial sector, he said, adding with a smile that he has a degree in electrical engineering.

Thain led the New York Stock Exchange when it struck its deal to buy Archipelago, steered its takeover of European markets operator Euronext NV and negotiated the sale of Merrill Lynch to Bank of America (BAC.N), before being ousted from the top job earlier this year.

Prior to heading the NYSE, Thain spent nearly a quarter century at Goldman Sachs Group Inc (GS.N), where he became No. 2.

The former Merrill CEO defended his tenure at Merrill, saying that he did the "right thing for my shareholders and employees.

Thain said that there are lots of potential opportunities in the private equity arena, but "in terms of big public companies, there are not very many opportunities right now."

Thain added that he probably wouldn't start a boutique investment bank-type business, but said there could be opportunities to build companies "in a more start-up mode."

(Reporting by Megan Davies and Elinor Comlay; Editing by Phil Berlowitz)

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