John Thain, who was Merrill Lynch & Co.'s chief executive before being ousted a year ago, has held talks to become head of CIT Group Inc., the commercial lender that emerged from bankruptcy last month, according to people familiar with the matter.

Jeffrey Peek, the former investment banker who has managed CIT since 2004, is scheduled to retire Jan. 15, CIT said Tuesday.

Thain is considering alternatives and has not made any decisions, according to one of the people, who declined to be identified because CIT's search for a new CEO is private.

Joining CIT, of New York, would return Thain, 54, to the top of a public company a year after he was pushed out by Kenneth D. Lewis, then the CEO of Bank of America Corp., which agreed to buy Merrill Lynch amid the 2008 financial crisis. CIT has not publicly identified potential successors for Peek, 62, and spokesman Curt Ritter declined to comment on candidates. The search continues, Ritter said.

Asked on Bloomberg Television Monday about what his next job might be, Thain replied, "I can't really say yet, but I'm working on what I want to do next, because I definitely do want to work."

Thain is also considering jobs at private-equity firms, according to one person familiar with the matter.

Thain has held talks to join Stone Point Capital LLC, whose chairman is former Goldman Sachs Group Inc. Co-Chairman Stephen Friedman, according to people familiar with the matter.

Calls requesting comment from Stone Point and Friedman were not returned.

Thain left after B of A's takeover amid criticism of the firm's plans to pay bonuses in 2008, a year in which losses totaled $27.6 billion. B of A, in Charlotte, was aware of the plans to pay bonuses, Thain has said.

Before Merrill Lynch, Thain ran NYSE Euronext for four years and worked at Goldman Sachs for about 24 years.

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