Robert Doll is the central figure in the blockbuster Merrill Lynch-BlackRock merger announced in January. Doll, president and CIO of MLIM, will become vice chairman, CIO of global equities and chairman of the private client operating committee at BlackRock when the deal closes in the third quarter. Senior Editor Kevin Burke sat down with Doll to discuss the anatomy of the deal.
Registered Rep.: Do you think you got a good deal for MLIM?
Bob Doll: Yes, if we're able to grow the company faster than either company could have grown independently. If we fail to do that, it'll be a ho-hum transaction.
RR: Most mergers don't work. Why will this one work?
BD: With most asset-management transactions the integration starts after the close. We're going to get absolutely as much done as we can prior to the close. We're going to have a head start.
RR: Will it involve repositioning products?
BD: It will. In many cases, it will be to broaden the product line. In other cases, it will be just to clarify the product line. There will be, inevitably, a few redundancies and we'll identify them during this process. Where there are similar offerings, we may elect to keep two.
RR: What does this deal mean for Merrill reps?
BD: Our goal will be to increase our market share if we possibly can, in all distribution channels, including the Merrill Lynch one. That's what the hard work will be about post-close. Will it make the average Merrill Lynch financial advisor more productive? I don't know. But our goal would be to get a higher share of their business.
RR: Will other firms follow your lead?
BD: If they can find smart partners like that, I think they'd be crazy not to think about it.
RR: Does this eliminate the conflicts of interest that exist in a proprietary fund shop?
BD: Potential conflicts of interest exist in every part of the financial-services business. I don't think that's going to go away. The question is how do you manage those conflicts?
RR: Will Merrill be pulling all the strings?
BD: It's not obvious anybody is taking anybody over. Also, there will be 17 members on the board of directors. Nine independent and eight interested directors, of which four are from BlackRock, two from Merrill Lynch and two from PNC.
RR: Any economic projections for the new BlackRock?
BD: That really depends on how we grow. Obviously we wouldn't have done this deal if we didn't think we could grow more quickly.