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Front End

Go Johnny go go go, Not Liars' poker, I mandate you in the name of the law, Japan's bulletproof bankers wear blazers, MTN stars ain't cheap, Chase's Indiana Lynch.

It's the end of an era at Merrill Lynch. John McNiven, the firm's colourful co-head of global debt markets in London and arguably the most successful debt market professional of the 1990s, is heading east to Hong Kong, to become co-head of Asian investment banking.

McNiven's London replacement will be Anders Bergendahl, most recently head of relationship management and business origination in the investment banking group.

It's a tough act to follow. McNiven, an ebullient Australian who drives a Rolls-Royce sporting the number plate MC NIV, joined the firm in 1988 from JP Morgan, along with six others, at a time when Merrill languished in 21st place in the Euromarket league table. But it topped the table in 1994 and has been there ever since.

McNiven established a reputation as a straight-talking, innovative debt market practitioner.

According to one colleague: "Tales about John are far too many to recount." One story concerns the run-up to McNiven's wedding a few years ago. The firm had for some time been chasing a big deal in the Ecu market, where it had won few mandates. So one syndicate staffer got hold of the treasurer of a major Euromarket borrower just two days before the wedding and persuaded him to call McNiven.

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