Bloomberg News

DAVOS, Switzerland - Merrill Lynch & Co. chief executive David Komansky said he plans to designate a successor by yearend.

The 61-year-old New Yorker, who has been CEO of the nation's biggest brokerage since 1995, said in an interview at the World Economic Forum in Davos last week that he wants to recommend his successor so he can begin preparing for retirement. He has previously said he plans to work until he's 65.

Merrill Lynch has been without a president, the presumptive successor to Mr. Komansky, since 1999, when Herbert Allison quit after the board told him he would never make it to the top spot.

Possible candidates include Stanley O'Neal, who last year became the first nonbroker to be named president of its U.S. retail brokerage. Mr. O'Neal, who was an investment banker before becoming Merrill's chief financial officer, oversees 20,200 brokers. He is also one of Wall Street's highest-ranking black executives.

Three other possible contenders have experience in serving retail and institutional clients: Jeffrey Peek, a former investment banker, who has been head of Merrill's asset management and mutual fund business since 1997; Winthrop Smith, who was also a banker, runs Merrill's growing international retail brokerage unit; and Thomas Davis, who oversees all of Merrill's business with corporations and institutions.

Subscribe Now

Access to authoritative analysis and perspective and our data-driven report series.

14-Day Free Trial

No credit card required. Complete access to articles, breaking news and industry data.