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Merrill Tees Up O'Neal

Updated from 9:30 a.m. EDT

Merrill Lynch (MER) finally bid CEO Stan O'Neal adieu Tuesday, but it remains unclear who will next lead the firm.

Merrill said O'Neal "decided to retire from the company effective immediately." Merrill pledged to search for a full-time successor to O'Neal, who came under fire for a series of blunders at the brokerage house and for perhaps at times focusing a little too much on his golf game at the expense of the firm.

Merrill named an outside director, Brera Capital managing partner Alberto Cribiore, as its interim nonexecutive chairman. It left in place its co-presidents, Ahmass Fakahany and Gregory Fleming.

"We would like to thank Stan for the contribution he has made leading a major transformation of Merrill Lynch into a global and diversified company with enormous potential ahead of it," said Cribiore. "His commitment to the company, its clients, shareholders and employees has never wavered and the company will reap tremendous benefits in the future from his work."

The announcement finally offered some resolution to last week's boardroom coup that finally cost O'Neal his job. O'Neal made significant changes at Merrill during his five years atop the firm, but a series of blunders this month led directors to agree the firm needs new leadership.

First, Merrill became the first firm on Wall Street to post a quarterly loss tied to the credit crunch that roiled markets this past summer. Merrill said Oct. 5 that it would lose as much as 50 cents a share, in large part because of a $4.5 billion writedown of bad subprime mortgage-related securities. The comment shocked analysts who had been looking for a profit of around $2 a share.

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