Bob Mulholland, who was the second-in-command of Merrill Lynch’s brokerage unit when he abruptly left the firm in 2005, may be returning to the brokerage, according to a person familiar with the matter.
We’re told that Sallie Krawcheck has been attempting to recruit Mulholland, who is still considered a “legend” by many of the remaining long-timers at Merrill.
We haven’t been able to confirm this, and our source couldn’t say whether there have yet been meetings between Mulholland and Krawcheck. Right now we’re considering it an unconfirmed rumour.
Krawcheck has been engaged in attempting to rebuild Merrill’s brokerage business, which she took over this summer. Morale at the firm has been badly damaged by the departures of several top executives and a culture clash with Bank of America, which acquired Merrill during the height of the financial crisis.
Mulholland joined Merrill 1979 and worked there for 25 years. His retirement upset some retail Merrill brokers, who suspected that he had been pushed aside. He was only 53 when he left the firm.
James Gorman, now the designated successor to John Mack as head of Morgan Stanley, was the private client head at the time and engaged in streamlining the management structure. Some though he chose to oust Mulholland, who had been running the field operations for the private client group’s America region, with H. McIntyre “Mac” Garnder, who was less connected with the “thundering herd.”
Others saw the hand of then Merrill Lynch chief Stan O’Neal at work in Mulholland’s departure. O’Neal had become CEO just a year before Mulholland left, and had added another layer of management between himself and the brokers, hiring Bob McCann to oversee several of Merrill’s divisions, including the brokerage business.
Mulholland’s return to Merrill would be a symbol of the transformation of Wall Street. For years, the ongoing narrative was the downgrading of brokers at firms they once dominated. All across brokers were replaced by investment bankers and traders at the heads of the firms as they moved away from brokerage and sales dependent business models toward proprietary trading. Now it seems like the brokers may be poised for a comeback.