In the months since the collapse of Bear Stearns, The Wall Street Journal has continued to play forensic scientist with its decomposing body, piecing together strands of reporting to re-create in detail the scenes that led to the firm’s demise. In this week’s installment, Alan Schwartz, “surrounded by the comforting luster of wood paneling,” mulls leaving Palm Beach but decides against it. A hasty exit, he thinks, would set off alarms for important clients like Disney CEO Bob Iger and CBS CEO Les Moonves, and he doesn’t want to rock the boat…but little does he know there’s a gaping hole in it already.
Meanwhile, back in New York, word has spread among the lesser classes that the ship may be sinking, prompting stock-division head Bruce Lisman to climb atop his desk and bellow a phrase that would all too soon prove ironic: “Bear Stearns has been here a long time, and we’re staying here.” And Ace Greenberg, Bear Stearns’s 80-year-old former boss, “attempted to break the tension in a lighter way.”
Wearing his trademark bow tie, Mr. Greenberg, who still trades, performed magic tricks to amuse colleagues. At their request, he also reprised a scene from company lore: He practiced a golf swing on the trading floor, just as he had on Black Monday 1987, when world markets crashed. Mr. Greenberg, who doesn’t play the game, had famously pretended to swing a club and loudly announced he was taking the next day off.
Hilarious! Of course, as in an episode of C.S.I or Titantic, you know the ending to this story: Bear ends up dead. But thanks to the Journal, its heart will go on.