Merrill Lynch's celebrated CEO for nearly six years, ending in 2007, he guided the firm from its familiar turf fee businesses like asset management into the lucrative game of creating collateralized debt obligations (CDOs), which were largely made of subprime mortgage bonds. To provide a steady supply of the bonds the raw pork for his booming sausage business O'Neal allowed Merrill to load up on the bonds and keep them on its books. By June 2006, Merrill had amassed $41 billion in subprime CDOs and mortgage bonds, according to Fortune. As the subprime market unwound, Merrill went into crisis, and Bank of America swooped in to buy it.
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