Merrill Lynch, Pierce, Fenner & Beane, the biggest U.S. stockbroker, likes Wheaties. It took ads this spring in 90 U.S. newspapers ("We like Wheaties because") to explain why. In running a $50,000 contest, Wheaties' maker, General Mills Inc., had decided to pay the winners in stocks. Not to be outdone, General Mills took ads of its own, announcing that Merrill Lynch would advise the winners on what to buy, and General Mills will pick up the tab for the commission. Thus both firms hoped to spread the public's interest in ownership of...

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