Charles Edward Merrill, co-founder of Merrill Lynch & Company, was a stockbroker and a philanthropist. Merrill’s influence can be seen in the establishment and growth of such 1930’s companies as Safeway and K-mart. Merrill also had a hand in introducing widespread stock market investment opportunities to the general public.
1. College Education Merrill went to several different schools, all of which had a profound influence on the professional course that he decided to take. His years of college preparatory classes and time attending a variety of academies culminated in his attending school at the University of Michigan Law School from 1906 to 1907.
2. Philanthropic Benefits of His Estate
Following Merrill’s death, his estate became the source of many philanthropic benefits. His money supported such institutions as the Merrill Science Center at Amherst College and Merrill College at the University of California, Santa Cruz, built in 1968.
3. Money From Investing
Merrill made his money by investing. He bought up companies and invested in their success. It was his first few investments in Safeway and Kmart that really solidified his investment successes for the future.
4. Charles E. Merrill & Co.
Merrill established Charles E. Merrill & Co. in 1914 and eventually changed the name to Merrill Lynch & Company. Merrill was responsible for the merger which created the Safeway food chain. Through his holdings in this acquisition, Merrill was able to finance and acquire other companies and chain stores, thus exponentially increasing his influence with Safeway. By 1931, there would be more than 3,500 Safeway stores across the United States.
5. Restructuring Merrill Lynch and Co.
Merrill was one of the fortunate few who were able to foresee and take actions to minimize the influence that the stock market crash had on his holdings. Following this crash, he restructured Merrill Lynch and Co. with a greater focus on investment banking. Focusing on the growth of Safeway would open the door for Merrill to take advantage of other investments such as the one that would eventually lead him to become a significant shareholder in the Kmart Corporation.
6. Merging With E.A. Pierce and Co.
Following WWII, Merrill was approached by E.A. Pierce and Co. and was asked to invest in and take control of the struggling brokerage. Merrill agreed to do so with one stipulation. The company was to be renamed Merrill Lynch, E.A. Pierce and Co.
7. Educating Others on Investing
By this time, the average American was interested in investing in the stock market, but because stock market investing had previously been something that only the wealthy had access to, many people did not know where to start. To help educate others on investing, Merrill instructed his employees to hold seminars at which husbands and wives could leave their children with child care providers and learn how to take advantage of stock market investing.
8. Reputed Philanderer
Merrill had a reputation as a philanderer. He was married three times. He actually had the nickname “Good Time Charlie Merrill.”
9. Giving Up Inheritance
Merrill had three children, all of which were given trust at childhood that made them very wealthy. Merrill suggested to his children that they give up any additional inheritance that they may gain upon his death for $100. The children agreed and so Merrill’s remaining inheritance distributions were divided among his various philanthropic interests.
10. Father of Three
Merrill was the father of educator and philanthropist Charles E. Merrill Jr., Doris Merrill Magowan, and poet James Ingram Merrill. Merrill’s grandson, Peter A. Magowan, was President and CEO of Safeway Inc. and the former managing general partner of the San Francisco Giants.