Merrill Lynch & Co. has announced the retirement of Arthur Zeikel, chairman of its asset management unit, effective immediately.

Mr. Zeikel, 66, joined Merrill in 1976 and was responsible for helping create the brokerage firm's asset management business. During his tenure, Merrill's assets under management grew from just $300 million to a hefty $500 billion today.

The firm does not plan to name a new chairman immediately, a company spokeswoman said. Instead, Jeff Peek, president of Merrill Lynch Asset Management, who in effect has been running day-to-day operations since a reorganization about a year ago, will take the reins, she said. The reorganization followed Merrill's 1997 acquisition of London-based Mercury Asset Management, which brought $177 billion in new assets. At that time, Mr. Zeikel became chairman and took charge of strategic planning for Merrill's asset management business.

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