Eyes Only for You

Who says bankers lack a sense of humor?Even in the most harried of times, a couple of the industry's top executives found time for laughter.

On Monday, the morning after John Thain, the chief executive of Merrill Lynch & Co. Inc., signed a deal to sell the 94-year-old Wall Street firm to Bank of America Corp., he explained to reporters how he called Kenneth Lewis, his counterpart at B of A, to jump-start sale talks early Saturday morning. Within 48 hours the $50 billion deal was signed.

At a press conference Monday, a reporter asked Mr. Thain, who was sitting next to Mr. Lewis, if he had called any of B of A's competitors in hopes of piquing their interest. After all, Merrill was hastily seeking a deal over the weekend to avoid the possibility of suffering the same fate Lehman Brothers was quickly meeting — it filed for bankruptcy protection Monday.

Before Mr. Thain could respond to the question, Mr. Lewis chimed in. "I certainly hope he says only us!" Both men laughed.

A few seconds later Mr. Thain responded sheepishly, "I did not make any other phone calls."

It is worth noting that Mr. Thain's predecessor, Stan O'Neal, who was fired last year as the Merrill's credit exposure became apparent, had reportedly called Wachovia Corp. to gauge its interest in a possible deal.

On the List

A pair of California bankers, Thomas Wu and Dominic Ng, made Forbes Asia's list of "Twenty-Five Notable Chinese-Americans."Mr. Wu is the chairman, president, and CEO of the $12.9 billion-asset UCBH Holdings Inc. in San Francisco.

Last year UCBH became the first U.S. banking company to buy a bank headquartered in China by acquiring Business Development Bank Ltd. The Shanghai bank now operates as United Commercial Bank China Ltd.

In a press release Wednesday, Mr. Wu said he was "extremely honored" to be included on the list, the first of its kind for the magazine.

"We look forward to expanding our unique franchise to seamlessly serve our customers doing business between the U.S. and Greater China," Mr. Wu said.

Last year American Banker selected him as one of the recipients of its Community Bankers of the Year award, citing his accomplishments building UCBH over the previous 15 years.

Mr. Ng is the chairman, president, and CEO of the $11.8 billion-asset East West Bancorp Inc. in Pasadena. According to Forbes Asia, Mr. Ng "built East West Bank into one of the most successful banks in the U.S., which caters mainly to Chinese immigrants."

The list appears in the Sept. 15 issue of the magazine.

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