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BANKING

Stan O’Neal’s legacy to Merrill Lynch

The Merrill CEO had to go, but the firm he leaves is much stronger than the one he inherited.

"Already the revisionists are out trying to tarnish O’Neal’s achievements. He still has many enemies from the way he ruthlessly removed the Merrill old guard when he became CEO. Now they see a chance for revenge."
                                                                                                                    More on Stan O'Neal


The CEO suites of Wall Street have their first vacancy sign since the world learnt what sub-prime means.


While others such as Jimmy Cayne at Bear Stearns and Chuck Prince at Citi hang on for dear life, Merrill Lynch CEO Stan O’Neal has been forced to bite the bullet.


Rightly so. Any individual who, until recently, held the titles of chairman, CEO and president has the right to the glory of success, but has to carry the can when things go wrong. And they don’t get much worse than a $8.4 billion write-down in one quarter. Merrill became the leading CDO underwriter under O’Neal’s watch, and he sanctioned the purchase of mortgage originator First Franklin just as the bucks were about to stop flowing into the sub-prime market and begin pouring out.


Two misjudgments sealed O’Neal’s fate – the $3.4 billion upwards revision of losses in mortgage-related assets in the space of three weeks; and the CEO’s decision to approach Wachovia about a possible merger, apparently without the consent or knowledge of other senior executives and board members.




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