Herbert Allison Jr.: Warmer And Fuzzier, Please

Wanted: executive to fill the No. 2 slot at Merrill Lynch. On July 11, in a move that surprised Wall Street, Herbert Allison Jr., Merrill's president and chief operating officer, quit after 28 years. Allison, 55, had been heir apparent to CEO David Komansky since 1997, when he became top lieutenant, but was told recently that he would not take over the reins when his 66-year-old boss retires.

Some inside Merrill, known for its chummy ambience, expressed relief that the not-warm-and-fuzzy Allison would not be the boss. "Allison is not a person who gives praise easily or who builds up people around him," says a former senior exec, who asked not to be named. Allison did not return calls.

Next? A new heir apparent won't be named soon, Merrill insiders say. Komansky, a former broker, is expected to tap several top guns from Merrill's executive management committee and see who prevails. Among the contenders: Jeffrey Peek, head of Merrill's Asset Management Group, and CFO E. Stanley O'Neal. Whoever wins had better practice their back-slapping.

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