From moviemaking to architecture, the shamed and banished CEOs of the 2008 credit crisis have opted for some unusual career paths, either by choice or necessity.

Whether turning to Hollywood, like the former president of Bear Stearns, or advising a Scottish architecture firm, like RBS' ex-boss, or more conventional finance positions, few ex-CEOs are vaulting back into high-profile leadership posts.

While former Merrill Lynch boss John Thain has returned to the CEO hotseat and ex-HBOS CEO Andy Hornby is running a big UK retailer, other top bankers ousted over the last three years are returning from the wilderness in lower-visibility roles.

Many are surfacing in private equity, hedge funds or advisory roles, away from the spotlight, after being blamed for bringing banks to their knees and rocking the system.

Critics say their resurrections are premature, after their errors cost thousands of jobs and required taxpayer bailouts.

Corporate life has been rather hasty in its forgiving of a lot of them, said Peter Waine, director at Hanson Green, a UK search firm specializing in board members who aren't full-time executives and financial services.


Politicians have called for public bodies to shun architecture firm RMJM after it appointed former Royal Bank of Scotland CEO Fred Goodwin as an adviser to support our international expansion strategy.

Goodwin was ousted after an aggressive acquisition strategy almost forced the collapse of RBS, one of the world's biggest banks. He enraged the public by walking away with a big pension. While he was in exile in France, his home was vandalized.

RMJM, whose projects have included the Scottish Parliament building, is run by Peter Morrison, whose father is a former colleague of Goodwin.

These CEOs have incredible personal and business contacts, so it (the crisis) doesn't mean the person's career is over, said Jeanne Branthover, head of the financial services practice at executive search firm Boyden in New York.

It's not about money. It's about career, reputation and power. A huge amount is their personal belief in their credibility and not wanting to go out in a bad way, she said.

Many of the former masters of the universe spent months in exile or locked behind gated property, and some have made a clear break from banking.

Former Bear Stearns President Warren Spector, who was given the boot in August 2007 by ex-Bear CEO James Cayne at the dawn of the financial crisis, has resurfaced as the executive producer for The Loop, an independent film.

The movie was filmed last fall in New Mexico and is now in post-production and scheduled for release early next year.

Spector declined to comment about his new career producing movies. The 52-year-old had been seen as the heir apparent to Cayne, but lost his job at Bear shortly after two of the investment firm's hedge funds imploded.

Cayne has not resurfaced, but Dick Fuld, the former boss of Lehman Brothers, launched an advisory and consulting firm in New York. The scars of his bank's collapse run deep, however, and last year he greeted a Reuters reporter with the quip, You don't have a gun; that's good.

Playing village cricket was a release for Adam Applegarth, the architect of a lending binge at Britain's Northern Rock that ended with a run on the bank and nationalization.

Applegarth has been hired as an adviser by U.S. private equity firm Apollo Management and could end up advising on the purchase of distressed assets.

The hires will attract attention, but some see it as worth the risk.

The majority of Britons might be appalled, but I am not. And Peter Morrison will recognize the benefit of working with someone who has faced adversity, Heather McGregor, who runs an executive search business, wrote after RMJM hired Goodwin.

In Shanghai, Seattle, Singapore and Seoul, they have never been much interested in Fred's pension pot, she said.

Other bank chiefs returning to corporate life include Thain, who this month was named CEO of U.S. lender CIT Group ; former HBOS CEO Hornby, who has been running major UK retailer Alliance Boots, owned by buyout firm Kohlberg Kravis Roberts & Co ; and Marcel Rohner, who was ousted as UBS CEO a year ago and has joined private equity firm Exigen Capital as an adviser.

John Costas, who ran UBS hedge fund Dillon Read Capital Management, has set up a boutique broker-dealer firm in New York with former colleague Michael Hutchins.

Ken Thompson landed at Aquiline Capital Partners in New York after being ousted at Wachovia, now owned by Wells Fargo & Co , last spring.

For others, the crisis called into question why they were in a prominent bank role in the first place.

Matt Ridley, former chairman of Northern Rock, was an aristocrat better known as a zoologist and science writer, who sat on the board for 13 years and whose father chaired the bank. He has returned to writing and plans to publish The Rational Optimist this year.

(Reporting by Steve Slater. Additional reporting by Simon Meads in London and Matthew Goldstein in New York. Editing by Robert MacMillan)