Spin-Offs: Shrinking Supermarket

Shrinking Supermarket

Only a few years ago, Merrill Lynch led a stampede by Wall Street investment + firms to create "financial supermarkets" that would allow customers to shop under one roof for everything from money-market funds and individual retirement accounts to life insurance and home mortgages. One of Merrill Lynch's boldest expansion moves was investing in a real estate operation that bought and sold homes, offered mortgages and provided relocation services for transferred executives.

Last week, in a move that dealt a serious blow to the financial-supermarket concept, Merrill Lynch announced that it was putting its comparatively unprofitable real estate division up for...

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