Dow Jones

WASHINGTON - Merrill Lynch & Co.'s decision Tuesday to name E. Stanley O'Neal president and chief operating officer signals that he is next in line to run the firm when Chairman and Chief Executive David H. Komansky retires.

Although the firm stopped short of officially announcing O'Neal's status as Komansky's successor, analysts said his new title is the obvious prelude to such a move later this year. Komansky, who is expected to retire in 2004, has said he will name an heir by the end of the year.

"It's not that there's a guarantee, but there's certainly the implication there," said Credit Suisse First Boston analyst Joan Solotar.

The president and chief operating officer post has been vacant since 1999, when Herbert M. Allison retired from Merrill.

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