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Corzine recruits once-and-future aide …

In 2007, when then-Gov. Jon Corzine announced that his new chief of staff would be Bradley I. Abelow, The New York Times reported that he was “reluctant” to take the job.

Now, Abelow’s on-again, off-again boss is giving him plenty of reasons to make the same decision a little more eagerly. Yesterday, MF Global Holdings (MF) said in an 8-K filing that Abelow would serve as chief operating officer of the brokerage firm that put Corzine at its helm in March.

It’s at least the third time Abelow has worked for Corzine — before New Jersey, both men were at Goldman Sachs (GS) while Corzine sat atop the firm — and it’s a big step up from the last time Abelow reported to Corzine, at least financially: In New Jersey government, Abelow made some $135,058 a year, plus participation in the Public Employees Retirement Program, according to a database made available online by the Asbury Park Press. (Between his stints with Corzine, Abelow cofounded a private-equity shop, NewWorld Capital Group.)

Now, he’ll pull in $1.5 million a year in salary, plus a bonus target of $3 million, split evenly between cash and stock, according to his employment agreement. (In the first year, the cash portion is guaranteed: $1.5 million.) He’s also likely to get an option on 1.75 million shares of MF Global stock — a slug of shares worth $12.8 million at Monday’s close.

Abelow can expect to be busy: Corzine has talked up a big agenda for the next couple years, including expanding the company’s staff by 25% to 4,000 and transforming it into an money manager and full-fledged investment bank, according to Financial Times and Bloomberg News reports of his comments at a conference yesterday.

The last time Corzine laid out an ambitious agenda — that time, for the state of New Jersey — he ran into some hitches, culminating in the defeat of his gubernatorial re-election bid last fall.

This time, of course, there’s a big difference: As CEO of a company, even a publicly traded one, he should have a little more control over the direction. And that might make all the difference, both for him and for Abelow.

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