Who Killed Bear Stearns?

Monday, June 30, 2008 | 10:35 AM

01_bear_stearns0808 Fascinating read in the August edition of Vanity Fair: They wades into the"Did short sellers kill Bear Stearns" (BSC) debate:

"At Phi Kappa Wall Street, most of the frat boys are instantly recognizable. There’s the big, backslapping Irishman, Merrill Lynch, the humorless grind, Goldman Sachs, and the straitlaced rich kid, Morgan Stanley. And then, off in the corner, wearing its beat-up leather jacket and nursing a cigarette, was the tough-guy loner, scrawny Bear Stearns, who disdained secret handshakes and towel snapping in favor of an extended middle finger toward pretty much everyone. Bear was bridge-and-tunnel and proud of it. Since the days when the Goldmans and Morgans cared mostly about hiring young men from the best families and schools, “the Bear,” as old-timers still call it, cared about one thing and one thing only: making money. Brooklyn, Queens, or Poughkeepsie; City College, Hofstra, or Ohio State; Jew or Gentile—it didn’t matter where you came from; if you could make money on the trading floor, Bear Stearns was the place for you. Its longtime chairman Alan “Ace” Greenberg even coined a name for his motley hires: P.S.D.’s, for poor, smart, and a deep desire to get rich.

Bear Stearns was an investment bank, but the traditional banking roles, such as advising on corporate mergers and trading stocks, were always an afterthought there. What the P.S.D.’s at Bear Stearns did best was trade bonds. The firm’s executive history was the story of three bond traders, each with his own outsize personality. From the mid-1930s till the late 1970s, Bear was the province of Salim “Cy” Lewis, the cantankerous Wall Street legend who forged a cutthroat culture run less as a modern corporation than as a series of squabbling fiefdoms, each vying for his approval. Ace Greenberg, an avuncular sort who kept his desk on the trading floor and answered his own phone, took over after Lewis’s death, in 1978, and while his edges were softer, Bear remained a Mametesque pressure cooker where top traders could pull down $10 million a year while runners-up were tossed into the alley."

The Vanity Fair piece blames everyone from shorts to CNBC to Charlie Gasparino and David Faber.

Yet bottom line remains: If your financial condition is so precarious that rumors can bring you down, then its the finances, and not the rumors, that are to blame . . .

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Hat Tip: Dealbook

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Source:
Bringing Down Bear Stearns   
BRYAN BURROUGH
August 2008   
http://www.vanityfair.com/politics/features/2008/08/bear_stearns200808

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VF does not think too highly of your friend Charlie Gasparino:

Sam Molinaro felt it was time for another public assurance. CNBC’s Charlie Gasparino had been peppering him with phone calls seeking comment. Molinaro talked to Russell Sherman, who felt Gasparino could be played. “He’ll say something negative if you shut him out. But if you talk to him, he’ll go positive,” one Bear executive told me.

Posted by: Scott | Jun 30, 2008 10:39:12 AM

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