This morning, heavy of heart and light of pocket, Bear Stearns shareholders will meet at the Bear building in midtown, where they will at last approve acquisition of the firm by JPMorgan. It is Bear Stearns’ last day as Bear Stearns. As befits this dark day, The Wall Street Journal’s final installment of their epic series on the death of the investment bank focuses on the few days in March that sealed its fate; beginning with CEO Alan Schwartz answering a Friday-night phone call from Hank Paulson “in a dark seat in the back of a town car” and ending with the agreement that Bear would sell itself like a $2 hooker to JPMorgan. In between, there is anger: Jamie Dimon calls Citigroup CEO Vikram Pandit an ungrateful “jerk,” broker Ed Moldaver refers to JPMorgan’s “rape” of Bear Stearns, and Dimon and Schwartz have an uncomfortable standoff when shareholders threaten to vote down the deal:
“Don’t you understand that we have a problem?” Mr. Dimon asked.
Mr. Schwartz, who had been taking a beating over the low price, knew an opening when he saw one. “What do you mean, ‘we’ have a problem?”
Intense! In the end, though, as we all know, Schwartz rolled over. “Two dollars is better than nothing,” he’s quoted as saying. And thus, JPMorgan got Bear Stearns’ clients, building, and a handful of employees at a bargain price. Sure, they’ll wait a decent, respectful amount of time before putting their name on the plaque at 383 Madison. And those who lost their jobs will be provided for a little bit longer. But in the end, it will all fade away, the last vestige of the 85-year-old firm will be the Bear alumni network where disgruntled employees can spend their suddenly free summer bitching about what an asshole Jimmy Cayne is. Or they can take their lead from one employee who spoke to the Post today. “It’s the summer of Doug,” Doug K. explained. That’s right. Peace out, bro.