Stanley O'Neal relinquished his title as chairman and CEO of Merrill Lynch & Co. in October, after a 21-year career there, and less than a week after the company reported an $8 billion loss on subprime related investments.
According to a profile from Harvard Business School, where he earned his MBA in 1978, O'Neal was born into poverty in Alabama. As a young boy, he labored on his family's cotton farm while his mother worked as a cleaning lady.
He rose through the ranks at Merrill, becoming president and chief operating officer in July 2001. He was tapped as CEO in December 2002 and added the title of chairman in April 2003. The posts made him one of the most powerful African-American executives on Wall Street.
O'Neal was eventually replaced by John Thain, the former chief of NYSE Euronext. In 2006, O'Neal received $46 million in total compensation, including an $18.5 million bonus and $26.8 million in stock awards, according to SEC filings.