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Sun taps ex-Merrill, ex-Fannie Mae exec for board

Meltdown trickle down

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If you were an investment management firm with a big stake in Sun Microsystems, and if you had arranged with the IT vendor to get two independent board members added to the board of directors, where would you look for them?

Fannie Mae? Merrill Lynch, perhaps?

You might think not, but these are the organizations where Sun's latest board member, Rahul Merchant, earned his chops as a technology expert. He arrives at the behest of Southeastern Asset Management, Sun's biggest investor.

Merchant was hired by the quasi-governmental mortgage lending giant, Fannie Mae, back in 2006, but resigned from his post as chief information officer and executive vice president at the lender in the wake of the government takeover of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac back in September.

Prior to joining Fannie Mae, Merchant was the chief technology officer at brokerage house Merrill Lynch, which also famously nearly went bust thanks to the mortgage-backed security meltdown and was rescued by an ever-hungry (and perhaps over-ambitious) Bank of America, which ate Merrill for a whopping $50bn a few days before Merchant stepped down from his Fannie Mae job.

Merrill Lynch had more financial woes than perhaps BofA realized when it bought the brokerage house, and it has popped up in the headlines yet again because of the exorbitant decorating activities of former Merrill CEO John Thain and his rushing out of bonuses to Merrill employees in December of last year instead of waiting until January, when BofA employees get their bonuses.

"Mr. Merchant is an accomplished financial services industry leader with a proven track record for managing large technology operations and organizations across the globe," Sun explained in a statement announcing Merchant's appointment to the board. Merchant has a BS in electrical engineering from Bombay University, an MS in computer science from the University of Memphis, and an MBA with a finance specialty from Temple University.

You can't judge people simply by the organizations they work for. That's unfair and illogical. But funny is funny.

Sun's board includes: Scott McNealy, founder and chairman of the board; Jonathan Schwartz, president and chief operating officer; James Barksdale, of McCaw Cellular and Netscape fame; Stephen Bennett, who founded and sold Intuit; Peter Currie, a former Netscape and McCaw Cellular exec; Robert Finocchio, the former chairman and CEO of Informix (which was sold to IBM); James Greene, of private equity firm Kohlberg Kravis Roberts (which kicked in $700m in equity into Sun two years ago); Michael Marks, the former CEO at Flextronics who also had a stint at KKR and Tesla Motors; Patricia Mitchell, a former president of the Public Broadcasting System and a director at BofA; Kenneth Oshman, chairman and CEO at Echelon; and Anthony Ridder, the former chairman and CEO of the newspaper publisher that used to bear his name before it was sold off to McClatchy in 2006.

I wonder who Sun and SAM will appoint to the board next? ®

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