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Charles E. Merrill: Wikis

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Charles Edward Merrill (October 19, 1885 – October 6, 1956) was an American philanthropist, stockbroker and co-founder of Merrill Lynch & Company (previously called Charles E. Merrill & Co.).

Early years

Charles E. Merrill, the son of physician Dr. Charles Merrill and Octavia (Wilson) Merrill, was born in Green Cove Springs, Florida where he spent his early childhood. In 1898 the family briefly moved to Knoxville, Tennessee but within the year returned to Florida to settle in Jacksonville. After the school Merrill had been attending was damaged in the Great Fire of 1901, his parents decided to send him to the college preparatory academy operated by John B. Stetson University. Merrill studied there from 1901 till 1903 and then in 1903 for the final year of high school was transferred to Worcester Academy. After two years at Amherst College, Merrill spent time at the University of Michigan Law School from 1906 to 1907; worked at Patchogue-Plymouth Mills from 1907-09; at George H. Burr & Co., New York City, from 1909-13; then established Charles E. Merrill & Co. in 1914, changing the name to Merrill Lynch & Company.

Merrill Lynch

Merrill and his friend, Edmund C. Lynch, created Merrill Lynch in 1915. Merrill made his money by investing. He orchestrated the 1926 merger which created the Safeway food chain, and Merrill Lynch provided investment banking services to Safeway to finance the acquisition of other chains, growing Safeway to more than 3,500 stores across the United States by 1931.

Merrill anticipated the Stock market crash of 1929, and divested many of his holdings before the Great Depression. He had, in fact, pleaded with President Calvin Coolidge (like Merrill, an Amherst alumnus) to speak out against speculation, but Coolidge did not listen to him.

Additionally, Merrill merged his retail brokerage and wire operations with E.A. Pierce and Co., thereby restructuring Merrill Lynch and Co. to focus upon investment banking. Following this restructuring, Merrill was able to spend more time focusing upon the further growth of Safeway, where he remained the largest shareholder and defacto CFO; in time, his son-in-law and grandson would also run the firm. Merrill was also a major investor in the S. S. Kresge Corporation, the forerunner of the Kmart Corporation.

In 1939, immediately preceding the boom caused by World War II, Merrill was approached by E.A. Pierce and Co. to invest in and take control of the struggling brokerage. Merrill agreed to do so, provided that the company would be renamed Merrill Lynch, E.A. Pierce and Co. Merrill was convinced that the average American who wanted to invest should be able to buy shares in the stock market, which was previously a playground for the wealthy. He instructed his employees to hold seminars at which husbands and wives could leave their children with child care providers while the parents learned how they, too, could invest.

Merrill was a well-known philanderer and bon vivant. He was married three times and gained the nickname "Good Time Charlie Merrill".

All three of Merrill's children were wealthy from unbreakable trusts made early in childhood.

Merrill's estate funded the Charles E. Merrill Trust, an engine of philanthropy, supporting the Merrill Science Center at Amherst College and Merrill College at the University of California, Santa Cruz, built in 1968.

Merrill was the father of educator and philanthropist Charles E. Merrill Jr. (b. 1920) (author and founder of the Thomas Jefferson School, Commonwealth School, and former chairman of the board of trustees of Morehouse College); San Francisco philanthropist Doris Merrill Magowan (1914-2001); and poet James Ingram Merrill (1926-1995). Merrill's grandson, Peter A. Magowan, was President and CEO of Safeway Inc. and also the former managing general partner of the San Francisco Giants.

Mr. Merrill was inducted into the Junior Achievement U.S. Business Hall of Fame in 1976.

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