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September 12, 2009

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New CEO faces new landscape

MORGAN Stanley's incoming CEO will be facing a drastically different landscape on Wall Street from when John Mack took over in 2005.

James Gorman is poised to take over a bank that some say is still searching for direction after surviving a credit crisis that wiped out most of its competitors.

Morgan Stanley announced on Thursday that Gorman will take the reins from Mack in January. Gorman, a 51-year-old Australian, joined Morgan Stanley in February 2006 and most recently served as the bank's co-president. He was one of the first executives Mack hired when he returned to the firm in 2005 after being forced out in a power struggle four years earlier.

Mack, 64, will remain as chairman. Robert Kidder, lead director of Morgan Stanley, said in a statement that Mack told the board 18 months ago he wanted to step back from the CEO role when he turns 65 in November.

Morgan Stanley has been criticized in recent months under the leadership of Mack for being too conservative as the market stabilized and began to recover from the peak of the credit crisis last fall.

The swing toward a more conservative business approach was in reaction to mounting losses from the bank's more aggressive investment strategy before the global economic meltdown that began in late 2007.

While its main rival Goldman Sachs Group Inc has rebounded thanks to a return to its more aggressive trading practices, Morgan Stanley is still trying to dig itself out from real estate-related bets that soured during the downturn. The New York-based bank lost more than US$1.2 billion in the second quarter.

However, despite all its struggles, Morgan Stanley has managed to remain in business while many of its other Wall Street brethren have failed or been sold to new parents to avoid collapse. Lehman Brothers Holdings Inc failed a year ago, while Bear Stearns Cos was sold off and Merrill Lynch found a new parent.


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