Merrill Lynch's chief chooses O'Neal as heir presumptive

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Merrill named O'Neal as president and chief operating officer, a position that has been vacant since 1999, when Herbert Allison retired from Merrill. The move was seen as a signal that O'Neal had been chosen as Komansky's heir, something the chief executive confirmed.

Komanksy said he was optimistic that the two runners-up for his throne - investment management head Jeffrey Peek and corporate and institutional client group head Thomas Davies - would continue to play important roles at the firm.

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