ESPN? CNBC? They are four-letter network words that have a lot more in common than you might think.

Take an ailing company or a pathetic ball club. Owners will often make a change at the top, if only to send a message that losing will not be tolerated. You won't find too many coaches or corporate executives canned when the going gets good and the incentive to retire at the top is easy to resist when you're smiling.

But E*Trade (NYSE:ET) will be bidding farewell to Chief Financial Officer Leonard Purkis at the end of next month. He will retire knowing that shares of the discount brokerage firm that he joined back in 1998 have more than tripled off last year's lows.

After a painful drought during the past few bearish years, the market's return to somewhat bullish glory has been especially sweet for the discount brokers that have capitalized on the empowering ways of online trading. Other publicly traded discount specialists such as Schwab (NYSE:SCH) and especially Ameritrade (NASDAQ:AMTD) have seen their shares roar back to life as consumers warm up to the art of investing again.

E*Trade can feel it, too -- in its coffers. Last month, the company posted healthy third-quarter results, revising its guidance substantially higher as commissioned trades shot up by nearly 50%. Back in February, we reasoned that one shouldn't discount the discount brokers. While the stocks have a long way to go to reach their all-time peaks, they have certainly performed well over the past few months of riding the market's coattails.

So, while Purkis retiring means that he may have to forgo the pleasure of counting even more beans next year, he should consider himself fortunate to have weathered the storm and moved on while his company is near the top of its game. Not too many company executives -- or team leaders -- can make the same claim.

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