Merrill Lynch & Co.'s hiring of a top OppenheimerFunds executive is the latest example of a big brokerage firm taking steps to bolster its proprietary mutual fund business-an area where brokerages have been notoriously weak.

The company announced Monday that it has hired Robert C. Doll, chief investment officer at OppenheimerFunds, as chief investment officer for stocks at its mutual fund unit, Merrill Lynch Asset Management. At Oppenheimer he is being succeeded by O. Leonard Darling, who comes from the company's institutional unit.

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