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Richard S. Fuld Jr. Lehman Brother Collapse | Victim or Culprit?

Richard Fuld

Lehman Brother CEO Richard S. Fuld Jr.

New York Magazine recently wrote up a very lengthy article on Richard Fuld, the CEO of Lehman Brothers who is blamed for driving the firm into the ground earlier this year. Here is a short excerpt from the article:
On June 11, Richard S. Fuld Jr., CEO of Lehman Brothers, sat down to lunch with a half-dozen of Lehman’s senior investment bankers. Since the fall of Bear Stearns in March, Fuld had been struggling to keep “the mother ship,” as Fuld liked to call his firm, from taking on water, but with little success. The stock was sinking quickly. In just a few months, Lehman had given back ten years of gains. Two days before the meeting, Lehman announced a second-quarter loss of $2.8 billion, its first negative quarter in fourteen years, causing the stock to plummet again, 21 percent in a couple of days. Fuld’s own people, their net worth evaporating, were losing confidence. Hugh Skip McGee, the global head of investment banking and for years a loyal Lehman employee, had requested the meeting. They gathered in Fuld’s private dining room on the 32nd floor of Lehman’s Seventh Avenue headquarters, a somber mahogany-paneled room, with a list of several demands, chief among them a change in leadership.“The board of directors is going to be under pressure,” said one banker. And then added, “It has to deliver a head to the street.”

At about five-eight, Fuld isn’t physically imposing. But he has intensely dark eyes and a deep, wide forehead that slopes so sharply it reminds some of a can opener. Those features, and a palpable inner intensity, give him an almost animalistic presence. “Through these little physical cues, he made it seem like [a situation] will lead to physical violence if you didn’t relent,” says one former executive.

“I’ve given you fourteen years of earnings. I have one bad quarter. This is how you respond?” Fuld shot back. The veins on his neck popped.

But the bankers pressed their case. Actually, they wanted two heads. They would spare Fuld the indignity of a coup, but they wanted him to fire Joe Gregory, Lehman’s president, and Erin Callan, Gregory’s protégée, whom he’d made CFO and who had been the public, sunny face of Lehman as it spiraled down. Firing Gregory would be personally devastating to Fuld, as the bankers knew. Over three decades at Lehman, the two had rarely sat more than a hundred feet from each other. Professionally, they were complements: Mr. Inside and Mr. Outside. Read more...

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