O'Neal 'retires' as Merrill CEO after $8 billion writedown

In a statement, Merrill Lynch said O’Neal had “decided to retire” in the wake of last week’s $7.9 billion writedown across collateralised debt obligations and subprime mortgages.

The writedown, by far the biggest reported by any institution stung by exposures to mortgage-backed securities, was $3.5 billon more than that announced in the company’s earnings pre-release in early October, and raised serious questions about Merrill’s risk management structure and O’Neal’s investment strategy.

O'Neal had been CEO of the company since December 2002 and spent a total of 21 years at the firm. Alberto Cribiore, a member of the Merrill Lynch board since 2003 and founder of global private equity firm Brera Capital, has been named as an interim non-executive chairman.

Cribiore will lead a search committee that will identify possible chief executive candidates both from within and outside the company.

The bank has also confirmed that Ahmass Fakahany and Gregory Fleming will continue as Merrill Lynch co-presidents and chief operating officers.

See also: Merrill writedowns throw light on risk management
Merrill Lynch reports $5.6 billion losses on FICC business

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