CHICAGO - Verne G. Istock, president of Bank One Corp., sitting next to new chairman and chief executive officer James Dimon throughout the company's annual meeting this month, was never given a turn at the microphone.
Analysts who follow the nation's fifth-largest bank say it was a clear sign that the 59-year-old executive has no long-term role with the company. Some wonder how Mr. Istock has weathered the sweeping changes since Mr. Dimon's arrival in late March.
But there is a good reason why Mr. Dimon has not sent him packing just yet, analysts suggest.
In company circles Mr. Istock is seen as a key transition player, on hand to offer insight and perspective to Mr. Dimon on the state of affairs of the banking company's core businesses. Mr. Istock has spent more than 23 years at the company and its predecessors, including a stint in the mid-1990s as chairman and chief executive officer of First Chicago NBD Corp.
Those familiar with the management structure, however, say Mr. Istock's value to the company is likely to expire by yearend.
"I think Verne probably recognizes that he's not going to be around for the long haul," said Bradley S. Vander Ploeg, an analyst with First Union Securities Inc. in Chicago. "Jamie's plan should be in place by the end of the year, and he won't have any further need for him."
Neither Mr. Dimon nor Mr. Istock was available for comment Friday, but both have made statements about working together.
"I have told them I would play whatever role that he [Mr. Dimon] thinks is important," Mr. Istock, who is in Europe for an international banking conference, has previously said.
Mr. Dimon has skirted talk of Mr. Istock's future. "Verne Istock continues to be very helpful and supportive," Mr. Dimon has said. "We'll eventually talk about the longer term, but it's working well right now."
Michael Mayo, an analyst at Credit Suisse First Boston and a frequent critic of the Chicago-based banking company, said, "It's unbelieveable that Verne Istock is still around at Bank One.
"I would have thought his presence as [an old-guard executive] would do nothing but prevent the company from moving ahead quickly," Mr. Mayo said. "We see it as having a negative effect that he's still hanging around."
Though Mr. Istock and Mr. Dimon have been cordial to one another in public, oberserves say there is a simmering tension between them behind the scenes. Mr. Istock, who had been acting CEO of the company since the resignation of John B. McCoy in December, was said to have actively campaigned for the job he ultimately lost to Mr. Dimon.
Even though the two may not have become fast friends, Mr. Istock has accepted his place in the corporate structure, Mr. Vander Ploeg said.
"It's clear to me and others that Verne is really helping with the transition and providing some continuity and some help for Jamie," Mr. Vander Ploeg said. "While he's accepted that role grudgingly, he's a shareholder and would not stand in the way."