Four years after joining the firm as a banker, he takes charge of Merrill's junk-bond group right after that market deflated. Merrill becomes No. 1 in the business within a year.1998
Named chief financial officer just as hedge fund Long-Term Capital Management collapses and Russia suffers from a currency crisis. O'Neal minimizes Merrill's exposure.2000
Takes over as president of the retail-brokerage division right before the bull market ends. He makes the division even more profitable in a bear market.2001
Becomes president of the overall company two months before September 11. Accelerates Merrill's restructuring so that the firm can avoid losing money.DECEMBER, 2002
Named CEO as bear market heads into fourth year. Merrill announces its third-most-profitable year ever.