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What price a date with Stan O'Neal?

How much would you pay to dine with your CEO? Too much and you'll be seen as a creep, too little and you can wave goodbye to that promotion. That's the quandary facing Merrill Lynchers, who can bid for a tête-á-tête with Stan O'Neal - CEO in waiting.

O'Neal: ready to share champagne
and oysters for the right price

An evening with O'Neal is one of the treats up for grabs in a charity auction being run by Merrill. At  press time, bidding stood at $1,000 - from a corporate bond staffer in New York.

Dinner with James Gorman, president of the private-client business has so far proved less of a draw, raising $260, while John McKinley, chief technology officer, has attracted just $190.

Proceeds go to United Way, the campaign Merrill began after September 11. It has raised $4.5 million to date under the banner "Be bullish...on giving".

But if putting a price on your boss is a delicate proposition, we wouldn't want to be in the shoes of whoever bid $1,320 for a case of burgundy instead.

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