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The Heist

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Sandy Weill, left, and Jamie Dimon, then with American Express, at a conference in California in 1983.  

Dimon was extremely well suited to his role, and he and Weill went about assembling a financial conglomerate that investors found irresistible. There would be cross-selling—your retail bank offering you a credit card, an investment banker facilitating a commercial loan, a stockbroker hooking you up with a mortgage—and customers who once did just one type of transaction with the firm would suddenly be providing multiple streams of revenue.

Building this giant brought Weill and Dimon together, but as they neared their goal, Dimon’s pent-up resentments from playing second fiddle to Weill for all those years were unleashed, and his temper started to get the better of him. The tail end of Dimon’s tenure at Citigroup was marked by what many people saw as a level of hostility between Dimon and Weill that would not have been tolerated by any other CEO. “Jamie would say things to Sandy that would leave your mouth open,” says one executive who worked closely with the two men. Along the way, Dimon lost more allies than just Weill. Former Citigroup chairman and CEO John Reed (who was himself ousted by Weill) went from being a Dimon fan to a Dimon foe in mere weeks. “Reed originally thought the light shone out of Jamie’s rear end,” says the executive. “He was going to be the guy to take over from Sandy and John when the two of them walked into the sunset eighteen months later. And then before you knew it, he was saying Dimon had to go.”

In his early years, Dimon was praised for his intellect, his ability to focus on the details of the deals his boss, Weill, conceived of in broad strokes. With success, however, Dimon became harder to manage, certainly harder to control. “Jamie was testosterone—he was loud,” says someone who worked closely with him. “You don’t have to be like that. Ideas can carry the day.”

Others saw Dimon as a victim of Weill’s egomania. “I can still hear Jamie saying, ‘But Sandy!’ with his arm up in a meeting. Without any fear. For the right reasons,” says Marge Magner, the former head of Citigroup’s global consumer group. Whether one’s interpretation favored Dimon or Weill, there was no doubt that the two were behaving like a dysfunctional family. It was awful to watch.

The final blow came during the last merger, the one that joined Travelers and Citicorp. Dimon reportedly wanted to be both president of the combined company and the chief of the corporate investment bank. Weill and Reed thought he needed to share the investment-banking job with two others, Deryck Maughan and Victor Menezes. “Sandy had asked the three of them to come up with a plan to run the bank together,” says one executive who was in on the discussions. “So there’s the meeting at 388 Greenwich when Sandy asks for their plan. Jamie said they couldn’t do it unless only one of them was put in charge. And then he pretty much refused to speak. It was mutiny. Disobedience. If someone had done that to Jack Welch, he would have ripped their heart right out of their chest.”

Dimon was fired in November 1998. Whatever his emotional state, his reputation emerged more or less unscathed. In fact, he was regarded as something of a martyr. There would be a CEO job for him; it was just a question of when the right one would open up. Dimon did not leap at opportunities. He turned down a job at Amazon. Sixteen months went by until Bank One, in Chicago, named him CEO. He moved his family (he and his wife, Judith, whom he met at Harvard, and their three daughters) into a 26-room mansion and took up his customary role as a cost-cutting zealot. A 2002 story in Money magazine reported that he was incensed by the number of newspaper subscriptions paid for by the company, telling one executive, “You’re a businessman. Pay for your own Wall Street Journal.”

Dimon did well at Bank One. One of his virtues as an executive is that he’s blunt and truthful—to bosses, peers, and subordinates alike. He doesn’t tend to mince words or spare people’s feelings. As a younger man, when he was forced to share power, this could turn easily into anger and nastiness. But as his own boss, he used it more effectively. In four years at Bank One, he doubled the value of the company and made it a very attractive acquisition target. In 2004, he persuaded William Harrison, then CEO of JPMorgan Chase, to purchase Bank One for $58 billion, a stupendous deal for Dimon’s shareholders. Dimon, it is said, offered to accept $7 billion less in the deal if he were named CEO immediately, but Harrison reportedly paid the extra to extend his own tenure. Dimon ascended to the CEO job in 2006, when Harrison moved into the chairman role. A year later, Dimon took that title, too. He was back.


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