Smarting from a $7.9 billion writedown related to subprime and collateralized debt obligation assets, Merrill Lynch & Co. on Tuesday announced the "immediate" retirement of chairman and chief executive Stanley O'Neal.Mortgage bankers that have done business with Merrill Lynch say Mr. O'Neal is being blamed, in part, for the Wall Street giant's foray into the subprime market. About a year ago, according to one banker, Merrill had about $10 billion in outstanding warehouse lines of credit or repos with subprime nondepositories. Merrill Lynch has elected director Alberto Cribiore as its interim nonexecutive chairman. He will spearhead Merrill's search for a new CEO.

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