Many executives who were hired or mentored by Mr. Komansky followed him to Wall Street’s highest echelons, among them, in addition to Mr. Gorman, Laurence D. Fink, the founder and chief executive of BlackRock, the world’s biggest asset manager; and Andy Sieg, who runs Bank of America’s wealth management division.
Mr. Komansky even befriended rivals, including Henry M. Paulson Jr., the former Treasury secretary and chief of Goldman Sachs. The two would joke about crisscrossing the globe to meet clients, sometimes landing in cities within days of each other.
“He was a very tough competitor who I still considered a friend,” Mr. Paulson said in an interview. “His people skills were legendary.”
David Herman Komansky was born on April 27, 1939 in Mount Vernon, N.Y. His father, William, a son of Russian Jewish immigrants, worked nights as a postal worker. His mother, Mae, came from a large Irish-Catholic family and later converted to Judaism. Mr. Komansky kept a reminder of his humble roots on his desk: a photo of the tenement building on the Grand Concourse in which he grew up.
He took an unusual path to the top. After dropping out of the University of Miami, Mr. Komansky did stints in the Coast Guard and held odd jobs before going to work for a local brokerage in New York.
He was hired by Merrill in 1968 as a financial adviser trainee in Queens and began climbing the ranks, running sales in Detroit and New York and then nationwide for Merrill’s private client group.
After completing a management program at Harvard University, Mr. Komansky was promoted by Daniel P. Tully, the chief executive at the time, to manage capital markets businesses, including equities and debt. He became president and chief operating officer in January 1995 and chief executive in December 1996. He was named chairman the following spring.