Report: BlackRock founder offered top spot at Merrill

Laurence Fink, former Blackstone partner and founder of publicly traded investment firm BlackRock, has reportedly been offered the chief executive position at Merrill Lynch. Fink is also said to be a candidate for the same job at Citi, as both US banks seek to replace CEOs in the wake of multibillion dollar write-downs.

The co-founder of BlackRock, a publicly traded investment firm that spun out from The Blackstone Group, has reportedly been tapped to head Merrill Lynch.

Laurence Fink has been given two weeks to accept the job offer, according to CNBC. The news outlet also reported that Fink is a candidate for the chief executive post at Citi, another US investment bank seeking to replace its CEO following record-setting, multibillion third quarter losses.

Merrill has a particularly close relationship with Fink: Last year, BlackRock purchased Merrill’s asset management business in a deal which also gave the US investment bank a 49.8 percent BlackRock stake.

Laurence Fink

Fink was mentioned as a possible candidate for the Merrill job in a 27 October New York Times article that listed possible courses of action the bank could take after its former CEO, Stan O'Neal, was forced out.

It is not the first time the 54-year-old Fink has been in the running for a senior position at a major US investment bank; he was considered the prime replacement when Morgan Stanley CEO Phillip Purcell retired in 2005, and earlier this year, according to the Times, he was on the shortlist to lead Citi’s alternative investment group.

A look at his resume makes plain the reasons for Wall Street’s continued interest in Fink’s leadership.

After earning a bachelor’s degree in political science from the University of California at Los Angeles and an MBA degree with a concentration in real estate from the UCLA Anderson Graduate School of Management in the early 70s, Fink joined First Boston, where he helped pioneer the trading of mortgage-backed securities. At First Boston, he also started the Financial Futures and Options Department and led the Mortgage and Real Estate Products Group.

In 1988, at the age of 35, Fink joined Blackstone to run Blackstone Financial Management along with fellow BlackRock founder Ralph Schlosstein, who had been co-head of Shearson Lehman Hutton.

By the time Blackstone Financial Management spun out as an independent firm and was renamed BlackRock in 1992, its assets had grown to $17 billion. Seven years later, assets had swelled to $165 billion and BlackRock went public.

Today the firm manages more than $1 trillion in capital across platforms including fixed income, equity, liquidity, real estate and alternatives, and continues to grow. In July, BlackRock agreed to pay $1.7 billion in cash and stock for Quellos Group’s fund of funds business, giving the New York-headquartered firm a $25.4 billion fund of funds platform.

In addition to serving as chairman and chief executive of BlackRock, Fink is also chairman of its management committee, several of its alternative investment vehicles and its joint venture in Japan, Nomura Black Rock Asset Management. He is also trustee and president of BlackRock’s open-end fund family, BlackRock Funds, and director of some of the firm’s offshore funds.

Fink is also a member of several prominent boards and committees including the Board of Executives of the New York Stock Exchange, the Board of Trustees of New York University and the Executive Committee of the Mount Sinai NYU Health Board of Trustees.

Several days ago he told Reuters he was “a happy CEO of BlackRock”. BlackRock did not immediately return requests for comment.