Earnest Stanley O'Neal is the former President, Chief Executive Officer and Chairman of the Board of Merrill Lynch & Co. Inc., having served in numerous senior management positions at the company prior to this appointment. O'Neal was also a member of the board of directors of General Motors from 2001 through 2006. He has taken criticism for his performance during his reign as chief executive at Merrill Lynch, following the deterioration of the firm's stability and capital position. During the final hearings prior to the Bank of America merger, numerous people laid the blame squarely upon Stanley O'Neal, including a founder's son, Win Smith, for the fall of the firm and its loss of independence.
O'Neal initially began work as an analyst for General Motors; within two years he was a director in the treasury division, developing skills he would later use while at Merrill. In 1986, he joined Merrill Lynch and by the early 1990s, he was running Merrill's leveraged finance division. After spells as global head of capital markets and co-head of the corporate and institutional client group, he spent two years as CFO from 1998 to 2000. In 2000, he was appointed president of the U.S. Private Client Group, the first executive of the division that oversees Merrill's brokerage who had not himself been a broker. O'Neal led massive layoffs within the division, but also was credited with changing the firm from a "stock jockey" pusher of stock to a more wealth management, financial planning oriented operation. He became president of the firm in 2001 in a palace intrigue that eventually led to the early ouster of his predecessor and one-time mentor David Komansky. By 2003, he was CEO and chairman. He was the first African American to hold such a high position on Wall Street.
O'Neal earned US$ 48 million in 2006 and 46 million in 2007.
During August and September 2007, as the sub-prime crisis swept through the global financial market, Merrill Lynch announced losses of $8 billion. O'Neal is largely credited with having steered Merrill Lynch into the disastrous sub-prime arena, and responsible for the losses. As the crisis worsened, O'Neal approached Wachovia Bank without the approval of Merrill's Board of Directors, which led to his ouster. O'Neal walked away with a golden parachute compensation package that included Merrill stock and options valued at $161.5 million at the time.
On January 18th, 2008, O'Neal was named to the board of directors of Alcoa.
O'Neal is said to have an "abrasive" personality, and CNBC includes O'Neal in their list of "Worst American CEOs of All Time".
Former Merrill executive VP Win Smith gives the dagger a twist: "He was a mean person, a disrespectful person, and he drove out thousands of years of experience," he told the magazine.
Before you start to feel bad for the guy ... he walked away with a $160 million severance package immediately after the bank suffered the largest losses in history.
Primary Source: Wikipedia