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Isolated Purcell faces undignified exit

The spat between Morgan Stanley's chief executive and former senior managers benefits no one. It is time for Purcell and the grumpy old men to do what shareholders really want – walk away. But has the row left a leadership vacuum at the top of the firm? Antony Currie reports.

PUBLIC SLANGING MATCHES. Slurs on character. Wilful use of irrelevant personal information. Private lobbying of third parties. Draconian demands to sign letters in support of the leader. A wannabe leader in exile. And each side protests that only its own members offer the right solution. It all sounds rather like the Cold War. At least the leaders in that battle saw fit, eventually, to have a direct hotline to each other in the event it heated up.

No such mechanism seems to exist for communication between the various parties in the fight for leadership of Morgan Stanley, which erupted in such a public fashion in late March. Détente through discussion is the one thing none of the warring parties seems willing to contemplate.

Instead the three main parties – CEO Philip Purcell and the board that backs him, former president Robert Scott and the seven other disgruntled former senior employees who have joined him, and lone ex-employee and now hedge fund manager Scott Sipprelle – are all acting in the typical manner people in high finance carry off so well: puff out the chest, dig in the heels, and scream blue murder.

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