In its Oct. 30 release that announced the “resignation” of O’Neal, the firm thanked “Stan for the contribution he has made leading a major transformation of ML.” That transformation, according to the Fortune editor-in-chief Shawn Tully, is why the investment house is in hot soup today.
ML used to make money the “safe way” from fee-generated business, but O’Neal moved into riskier transactions, such as its $1.3B acquisition of First Franklin, one of the largest originators of subprime mortgages, according to Fortune. The rest is history as ML is predicting a nearly $8B subprime loss. Stan, “you did a heckuva job.” That was some fine transformation.
“Exhibit B” is the cheesy “We Will Survive” corporate ad in today’s New York Times. Mother Merrill is now reduced to selling people on the idea that it has a future. Geez! This is the firm that used to tell us that it was “bullish on America.” The ad's tagline says it is “bullish on Merrill Lynch.” What about the rest of us? The piece only reinforces the notion of how far once-mighty ML has fallen. If the “geniuses” at the one-time Wall Street icon feel they need to make the case for a future, things must be plenty bad on the Street.
The Times ad asks for patience.
“We try to remember that investing is not a sprint, but a marathon, and that over the long term, patience is invariably rewarded.”
The ad says ML’s bull logo stands for the "embodiment of the pride, strength, integrity and optimism that have driven this company for nearly a century, and will continue to do so for a long time to come.”
This blogger would have been more reassured if the ad copy read “will continue to do so for at least another century.”