Bank of America is looking to sell a private bank it inherited from Merrill Lynch & Co, a banker familiar with the situation said on Wednesday.

The private bank, First Republic Bank, was purchased by Merrill for $1.8 billion in September 2007 to bolster the securities company's wealth-management and banking operations. Merrill ran First Republic as a stand-alone unit with its own brand name and management.

The Wall Street Journal website, earlier on Wednesday, reported that Bank of America was mulling a sale of the business.

The WSJ story cited Goldman Sachs Group Inc and Morgan Stanley as possible buyers of First Republic.

Bank of America executives are examining noncore assets and noncore businesses, looking for any that are no longer strategic fits, WSJ reported, citing sources close to Bank of America.

Bank of America declined to comment on the report. Representatives of Goldman Sachs and Morgan Stanley were not immediately available for comment.

(Reporting by Paritosh Bansal and Euan Rocha; Editing by Gary Hill and Carol Bishopric)