Merrill Lynch CEO Stan O’Neal has decided to step down, the Wall Street Journal reports, after days of speculation about his likely ouster following $8 billion in writedowns for the bank, and reports that he had discussed a merger with Wachovia without board authorization. The list of potential successors is headed by Laurence Fink, the chief executive of money manager BlackRock.
Journal sources say Fink could share the top job with Merrill’s co-president Gregory Fleming, to pacify directors weary of appointing an outsider to run the firm. One of O'Neal's successes at Merrill was buying a 49% stake in BlackRock in exchange for Merrill's asset-management business. Bob McCann, head of Merrill's brokerage arm, is also considered a contender for a top job, the Journal says.