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18. Stan O’Neal

O’Neal’s abrasive personality and ruthless cost cutting earned him many enemies, but his push toward riskier bets and subprime exposure led to his ouster. After Merrill posted the biggest quarterly loss in its 93-year history—and O’Neal was caught approaching Wachovia about a merger without the board’s approval—he was finally fired.

THE STAT: O’Neal walked out the door with $161.5 million in severance.

Merrill Lynch Company Website

By Portfolio.com