Merrill Lynch witnessed 12 years of transformation and evolution under the guidance of three successive chief executive officers. David H. Komansky, tapped as CEO in 1996, turned the venerated "bulge bracket" firm into a global financial services giant through an acquisition spree. After succeeding him in 2003, E. Stanley O'Neal countered a bloated structure by cutting staff, closing offices, and encouraging riskier ventures such as collateralized debt obligations. John Thain, Merrill's first outside CEO, masterminded Merrill's sale to Bank of America during the turbulence of September 2008, when investment firm Lehman Bros. collapsed. In this case students consider the motivations driving each CEO and the overall outcome of their leadership, as well as what lessons might be learned from this period in Merrill's history.

Case id: 080410
Supplemental Material: Teaching Note