Merrill Lynch & Co., Inc. is a global financial services firm owned by Bank of America now known as Bank of America Merrill Lynch. The firm was acquired by Bank of America under distressed circumstances during the 2008 Financial Crisis. This article describes both the historical Merrill Lynch and its ongoing operations as a subsidiary of the bank. Merrill Lynch provides capital markets services, investment banking and advisory services, wealth management, asset management, insurance, banking and related financial services worldwide. Merrill Lynch is headquartered in New York City, and occupies the entire 34 stories of the Four World Financial Center building in Manhattan. On September 14, 2008 Bank of America announced its intention to acquire Merrill Lynch for Bank of America common stock. Under the terms of the agreement Merrill Lynch shareholders receive 0.8595 shares of Bank of America stock. Shareholders of both companies approved the acquisition on December 5, 2008 which took effect January 1, 2009.
The company was founded on January 6, 1914, when Charles E. Merrill & Co. opened for business at 7 Wall Street in New York City. A few months later, Merrill's friend, Edmund C. Lynch, joined him, and in 1915 the name was officially changed to Merrill, Lynch & Co. At that time, the firm's name included a comma between Merrill and Lynch. In 1916, Winthrop H. Smith joined the firm.
In its early history, Merrill, Lynch & Co. made several successful investments. In 1921, the company purchased Pathé Exchange, which later became RKO Pictures. In 1926, the firm made its most significant financial investment at the time, purchasing a controlling interest in Safeway, transforming the small grocery store into the country's third largest grocery store chain by the early 1930s. Following this investment, the company further increased its investment banking focus by transferring its retail brokerage services to E.A. Pierce.