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Sontag Emerges as Dark Horse Candidate for Top Merrill Brokerage Job

Monday, 25 Apr 2011 | 12:15 PM ET
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Bank of America executives have secretly met with long-time Merrill Lynch veteran Dan Sontag in hopes of tapping him to run the U.S. wealth management division, according to people briefed on the matter.

Sontag has spoken with Bank of America chief Brian Moynihan, a person said. They discussed bringing Sontag into the role—although no decision has been made. Sallie Krawcheck, to whom Sontag would directly report, has not been part of these conversations.

“Just talking to Sontag is a huge insult to Krawcheck. He hates her,” a person familiar with the situation said.

Sontag held the top US wealth management job in 2009. He left shortly after the bank appointed Sallie Krawcheck as global head of wealth management. He learned that he had been passed over for the spot only moments before the bank publicly announced the Krawcheck hire.

That hire effectively demoted Sontag, since he would have then had to report to Krawcheck. The bank had spent months saying it was happy with Sontag in his position—making the whole situation personally humiliating for Sontag, according to people close to the matter.

It’s not clear if Sontag would seriously consider moving back to Bank of America.

“They treated him brutally. I can’t imagine him coming back,” a Merrill veteran said.

Moynihan was not running Bank of America when Krawcheck was hired in the summer of 2009. He only ascended to the top job at the end of the year. There is speculation that Moynihan may have won over Sontag by blaming the Krawcheck humiliation on former chief executive Ken Lewis, one person speculated.

“Everyone thought it would be Thiel or Seig, but now Sontag is a possibility,” the person said.

John Thiel and Andrew Seig are Merrill executives who are reportedly the top candidates to replace outgoing wealth management head Lyle LaMothe.

Sontag couldn't be reached for this story.

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