Cold. Vulnerable. Alone. But not rumpled. Never rumpled! “If you dress sloppy, you think sloppy” is Lehman CEO Richard Fuld’s maxim, and he’s sticking to it as he sits, knitting his amazing eyebrows together, high on the 31st floor of Lehman’s midtown office. Will it be his office much longer? He wonders.
He couldn’t get the South Koreans to give him any cash, at least not what he thought it was worth. Shares are down 61 percent since June. The Neuberger Berman asset-management division is his only bargaining chip; the market values Lehman’s remaining operations at zero. Two top executives flew the coop today. Analyst Richard Bove tersely noted that “the stage is set for a hostile bid to take over the whole company,” then told Bloomberg News: “The people inside the firm are in open revolt because Fuld hasn’t taken the tough decisions needed to regain confidence. So when a hostile bidder comes along, management will be on his side because they want Fuld out.” Oh, but that smarts. Angry mob logic, that’s what it is. Because getting rid of the top guy doesn’t help anymore. It didn’t help Merrill. It sure as hell didn’t save Bear Stearns. A wave of existential feeling sweeps over Fuld. Remember how they used to love him? When they called Lehman “one of Wall Street’s most harmonious firms”? When they said “Dick will never, ever leave”? Oh, those were the days.