When Men Were Men

My first job on Wall St, was with Bear Stearns, I was a 21 year old junior in college. I worked for a 35 year old guy who had actually just left Lehman Brothers and was made a limited partner. He was kind of a mope and I quickly found the movers and rainmakers to try to learn from. Amazing how nice they were to me, I was just a punk. One of the best parts of working there was watching the pros, guys that had made it. Some came from the silver spoon but most of the partners that I met came from nothing and had a talent, most of that talent was an undying work ethic. Ace Greenberg, the president and main partner(one of the best traders on Wall St.) use to come down and say hello every morning. He never missed a day. Bear Stearns, like Lehman at the time were partnerships, the traders, brokers and bankers owned the firm, they had skin in the game and it was a money printing machine. Bear Stearns had a beautiful partners dining room, they don’t have them anymore. One day when Ace came down to say hello to my boss they started talking about a lunch affair in the partners dining room, Ace said they needed more help because there was a bad accident on the FDR Drive and they were short handed. He looked at me and asked if I knew how to pour a drink, he didn’t even know my name. I ended up bartending a four hour affair with another guy and knew right then that I wanted Wall St. more than getting laid(at least at that moment in time)I met mentors and friends that I still have to this day.

Bear had great people, Greenberg said he didn’t care about masters degrees, he said he was more interested in PSD degrees, he called them “poor,smart and deep desire to become rich” degrees. I will never forget that, nor will I forget the true greatness of those times. They will never, ever comeback.

Lehman was the same way, great people, all with one goal in mind, make money for your clients and the byproduct will be making money for yourself. It was a true partnership for years, but had started changing a bit when I got there. Lew Glucksman ran the desk and Billy Welch ran the best retail arm that Wall St ever saw and will ever see again. I was there for the crash of 87 and remember a huge deal that was being priced that day, I believe it was an IPO for British Petroleum, one of the biggest deals ever, privatization was all the rage back then and England was going public every other day with one of their government entities. Banks, energy, industrials- we did them all. Rome was burning that day, but Lehman and Morgan Stanley spent the day on the phone and agreed that they had to honor their commitment even though everyone was lost, scared and very vulnerable. The deal got done, the market found its way, and the good will that was established that day could never be taken away.

That was Wall Street as I would like to remember it. Today it’s silly and ridiculous, run by punks like me I guess. I never felt a sense of entitlement though, and most of these people do. I was just happy to be playing the game. Everyone knows I am short the financials every chance I can get, its been an annuity for me this year, but I am truly saddened by these failures. Things will never ever be the same again. Now that I’ve waxed sentimental I am ready to get short.

Ace never would have called the Fed for help with the British Petroleum deal.

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