The Private Elevator
They are the vehicles by which people who aren't allowed to ride the elevators with guys like Jimmy Cayne and Richard Fuld get to give those guys a piece of their minds.
All of which leads me to this:
All of which leads me to this fabulous interview with Ace Greenberg by Deborah Solomon of The Times. Read question #3--the one about the elevators--carefully. Priceless. This is why we--meaning you, dear reader, and I--must buy The Times everyday!
Herewith, the interview as printed:
You’re the former chairman of Bear Stearns, the once-revered investment firm that self-destructed in 2008. How do you feel about your successor, James Cayne, who just testified before the Financial Crisis Inquiry Commission in Washington and conceded that he had taken on too much risk?
Enough has been said about Jimmy. There is little I can add.
In your forthcoming book, “The Rise and Fall of Bear Stearns,” you depict him as a careless manager who was off playing in bridge tournaments when he should have been minding the store.
We were going through rough seas, and he should have been at home guiding the ship. He shouldn’t have been playing bridge or golf during the week.
Is it true that he had a private elevator in the Bear Stearns building?
I said: “Jimmy, you want to help your image around here? Cut out that private elevator. Everybody hates you for it.” He said he only had it from 8 to 9 in the morning. I said: “That’s when everybody wants the elevator. They’re all coming to work.”
In the book, you present yourself as a frugal executive who recycled paper clips and rubber bands. But why didn’t you just fire Cayne, whom you hired when he was a young stockbroker?
In the first place, he owned about 5 percent of the company.
Why didn’t you tell the board that he was reportedly smoking pot in his office?
That wasn’t my style. I didn’t do things underhanded. Maybe I was wrong. We were making money, and the stock was making new highs. It was hard to complain when things looked so rosy.
You first joined Bear Stearns as a 21-year-old clerk and rose to become chief executive and chairman, during which time you took home as much as $20 million a year. Do you think you have any special talents?
I’m very good in math, and I’m a logical thinker. I don’t get wrapped up in things or even wrapped up in myself. My son once told me, “You’re really not that smart; you’re just so well organized and have a clear brain.” He was 11 years old.
Now that you work at JP Morgan Chase, which picked up Bear Stearns after its stock price fell to $2 a share, what do you do all day exactly?
Handle my own money. Handle clients’ money. It’s like a game. You win some; you lose some.
You say in your book that a phone conversation that lasts longer than 30 seconds has reached a point of diminishing returns.
My wife made me get a cellphone, which I keep in my briefcase. I’ve never used it.
Do you e-mail your clients?
No. I never use e-mail. The girls use the e-mail.
Are you referring to your secretaries? You should call them women, not girls.
They don’t mind. They’ve been with me 25 years.
You grew up in Oklahoma City, where your dad owned a group of women’s-clothing stores called Street’s. How did you get interested in working on Wall Street?
My father was the youngest of six brothers, and he was the brains. I never thought he was making what he should have. He had to split it with five brothers. So I made up my mind: I was going to go on my own and make my own money. I got lucky.
Are you a Republican?
I was a registered Republican for years. After the way the Republican leadership acted when the health care bill was passed, I changed my affiliation to Democrat.
How do you feel about the Democrats’ push to regulate derivatives?
I feel about it the same way that Jamie Dimon does.
And how is that?
I don’t know how he feels, but I feel the same way. Understand?
I don’t want to say anything that might be contrary to how JP Morgan Chase feels. This is a very sensitive topic.
You’re 82 years old, and you’ve led a very full life. Why do you care what Jamie Dimon thinks of you?
I’m in the noon of my career. I’m not going to mess it up.
reprinted (ironically, since they just asked me
permission to use my stuff) without permission from The Times.
But in an attempt to make it right,
I would again urge you to go buy one.