The Birth, Nurturing, Growth – and Untimely Fall – of One of the World’s Greatest Companies

Catching Lightning in a Bottle is the first complete history of Merrill Lynch and traces ML’s impact on the world of finance from the day Charlie Merrill opened his one-man shop on January 6, 1914, to the final shareholder meeting prior to its acquisition by Bank of America on December 5, 2008.

Winthrop H. Smith Jr. weaves in his personal experiences and observations. As the son of a founding partner, the author has known every Merrill Lynch CEO from the first, Charlie Merrill, to the last, John Thain.

While this book details the drastic decline of the company between 2001 and 2008, it also explores the story of the company’s “Mother Merrill” tradition – the vision and guiding principles shared by employees with each other and with their clients throughout the world.

Win Smith cut the ribbon to open the 1955 "How to Invest Show" in New York City while Charlie Merrill, Eddie Lynch Jr., E.A. Pierce, Darwin Fenner, and Alph Beane, Jr. witness the occasion.
Win Smith cut the ribbon to open the 1955 “How to Invest Show” in New York City while Charlie Merrill, Eddie Lynch Jr., E.A. Pierce, Darwin Fenner, and Alph Beane, Jr. witness the occasion.

“Win Smith, son of a founder of Merrill Lynch, has written an accurate story of the rise and fall of America’s preeminent brokerage firm. No novel could be as captivating, no characters as rich and fascinating as those who fill the pages of this remarkable book. Merrill, one of the few financial institutions with a soul, thrived and flourished because of strong and principled management. The firm’s demise, according to Smith (who holds back nothing), resulted from flawed management. A great study of the dark side of economic Darwinism.”
– Arthur Levitt, Former Chairman U.S. Securities & Exchange Commission

“Catching Lightning in a Bottle is a timely history combined with intrigue and passion.
It provides an accurate view of how our firm, Merrill Lynch, grew to prominence through a total commitment to clients and how losing sight of these principles led to the wounding of one of the world’s greatest global franchises. This is a must-read for every executive in order to avoid these mistakes in the future. Now that our time-honored principled approach to serving our customers has been restored, we are all thrilled to be part of BOA/MER”.
– Daniel P. Tully, Chairman Emeritus, Merrill Lynch & Co. Inc.

“This is a powerful and important story of what made a great institution and what brought it down, including some untold intrigue about the final years of Merrill Lynch. It is written by a man who knew it well and stood by his Principles.”
– Josh Weston, Honorary Chairman, Automatic Data Processing Inc.