The Wall Street Journal today has a big story walking us through the events leading up to the collapse of Bear Stearns this past week. But perhaps you haven't gotten to it yet. It's so large and inky, and you've been busy, going to meetings and calculating your annual income should you become a high-class hooker. Still, you don't want to look like an idiot, should someone, somewhere, bring up What Happened at Bear Stearns. You will want to nod knowledgably and pontificate on how it Might Affect the Economy. Which is why, using handy bullet points, we've summarized how the bank's dalliance with subprime lending, coupled with a dope-smoking CEO, finally caught up with them in a stunning week-or-so period. To keep things in perspective, we started at the beginning. The very beginning.
• Joseph Lewis, the British billionaire who built up his stake in Bear Stearns last summer, lost about $1.6 billion this past weekend, approximately half of his entire fortune. Bear's biggest investor, Dallas-based money manager James Barrow, whose firm had a 9.95 percent stake, also lost big — at least $750 million. Activist shareholder Bruce Sherman and departed CEO James Cayne each lost big on their 5 percent stakes, although Cayne might not care so much: He just closed on a $28.24 million Plaza pad and spent late last week playing bridge in a tournament in Detroit. [Bloomberg]
• Meanwhile, Bear's "fire sale" is spreading like wildfire down the street, singing Lehman Brothers, among other top banks. [DealBook/NYT]
• And Barry Diller's IAC is "sputtering." [NYT]
Former Bear Stearns CEO Jimmy Cayne is apparently feeling pretty mellow about the fact that Bear Stearns stock is at an all-time low; the 74-year-old bridge-master and alleged pothead and his wife, Patricia, just closed on not one but two adjacent apartments at the Plaza for $28.24 million. Altogether, they'll have 6,000 square feet, plus room service, maid service, and unparalleled views of Central Park. Yeah. And if you think that sounds sick, you should check it out after a few hits of the Purple Haze. Neighbors include foundering real-estate developer Harry Macklowe, Tommy Hilfiger, and a noted egg lover Joanna Cutler. Which reminds us: Cayne might want to be careful when he's all stoned up and taking out the garbage. We hear that the trash room on that floor can be kind of a bad trip.
Posh Plaza Purchase [PageSix.com]
Earlier: Joanna Cutler Reunited With Egg After Horrifying Ordeal
Jimmy Cayne is officially out at Bear Stearns, the company announced last night, and Alan D. Schwartz is in as the new CEO. Yesterday's Times referred to Schwartz as "a smooth, discreet investment banker," Portfolio today called him a "smooth dealmaker," and former Time Warner head Richard Parsons says he's "a smooth operator." But other than the fact that he is, apparently, silky soft and hairless, what do we really know about Alan D. Schwartz?
• Bush acknowledges slower economy, but he stops short of warning about recession. Still, will he go for another round of tax cuts? [NYT, NYT]
• Financial titans Warren Buffett and Maurice Greenberg came under attack in the Gen Re trial. Neither stands as a defendant, but both were accused of being intimately involved in a fraudulent transaction worth $500 million. [NYT]
• Now that Jimmy Cayne's out of the picture, which hedge fund will step in to buy Bear Stearns? [Deal Journal/WSJ]
For Bear Stearns CEO Jimmy Cayne, his 74th year was a difficult one. In August, two of Bear's hedge funds collapsed, heralding the subprime crisis and tipping off the worst losses in the firm's history. Then there were the firings, the Wall Street Journal article that painted him as a slacker pothead (and also weird), plus the investor retaliations, the regulatory investigations, the whispers that, after 39 years of service, he might need to be canned. It's enough to make anyone want to take refuge in golf and ganja. Which, the Journal and other media outlets are reporting, is what Cayne is doing. Citing "sources" who have been briefed on the situation, the papers are reporting that as early as today, Cayne will step down from his role as CEO at Bear Stearns and be replaced by Alan D. Schwartz. Cayne is "relieved," one source told the Times. As with a great movie where the hero dies in the end, we knew this was coming, and yet still, we're surprised. With his bridge addiction, his aversion to breakfast cereal, and his rumored affinity for the wacky tabacky, Cayne was a Wall Street original, an orchid in a sea of carnations, if you will. We'll miss you, old chap.
Cayne to Step Down As Bear CEO [WSJ]
Bear's Cayne Will Quit As Chief Executive [NYT]
Earlier: Intel's coverage of Jimmy Cayne
Recently, we were watching John Waters's 1998 movie Pecker, which starred all kinds of great people like Martha Plimpton and Lily Taylor and Edward Furlong, before he got weird and started getting arrested and dating his manager. Anyway, as in all John Waters movies, there were about five really brilliantly funny parts in it, one of which was a game the characters played called "Shopping for Others," in which they'd go to the supermarket and sneak things into the shopping carts of fellow shoppers when they weren't looking. (Like a long phallic gourd in the cart of a mousy single woman or a stack of Depends for a smarmy dude in tight jeans, etc.) Anyway, we got to thinking: How about if, this year, we make New Year's resolutions for others? We've never made New Year's resolutions ourselves — it's weird, every year New Year's Eve rolls around, and we realize we're still kind of perfect! — but we've always felt we were missing out on that great American tradition. Not to mention, frankly, there are people that could use our assistance. So. To celebrate the great New Yorkers who make this blog possible and to help them continue their gloriousness into 2008, we've generously ginned up some resolutions for their benefit.
So, yesterday Bear Stearns CEO Jimmy Cayne announced the investment-banking firm's first quarterly loss in its history, on the tail of announcing a $9.1 billion write-down. He was apologetic, sort of: He said the results were unacceptable and declared that neither he nor his management team would be taking bonuses this year. Then he then proceeded to entirely skip the conference call with investors. “You’d think the circumstances might have merited a show of contrition,” noted The Wall Street Journal today. Yeah. Especially since, the other day, Charlie Gasparino reported "sources" were saying the Bear Stearns board has been talking about a successor for him. We can't, er, bear this idea: We've grown fond of the Jimster, he's like our pot-smoking, bridge-playing, possibly pervy uncle. Which is why we have to assume that Cayne skipped the conference call not because he didn't feel bad, but because he couldn't deal with all that bad energy.
Bad News for Bear Stearns [WSJ]
Christmas is a time for giving, and lest we forget, it is also a time for sacrifice. This year, James Cayne and the other top executives at Bear Stearns are making the ultimate sacrifice: They've decided to forgo their year-end bonuses. Because they have enough money? Because they decided to donate it to the children of Darfur? Because J.C. hit it big at bridge? Eh, no. Ostensibly this decision has come about because they're gearing up to announce some pretty shameful fourth-quarter results tomorrow, and after losing $1.6 billion in investor money this year, pocketing what little is left would look kind of bad. So instead they're divvying up the small pool left over from what they didn't blow on subprime mortgages and giving it to players in the firm in hopes that they don't jump over to, say, Goldman Sachs.
Bear Stearns Chiefs to Skip Bonuses [WSJ]
Update: It's a trend! After announcing a $9.4 billion writedown, Morgan Stanley CEO John Mack is foregoing his bonus, too. Somewhere, Zoe Cruz is snickering.
Poor Vikram Pandit! He's been on the Citigroup throne for only a few hours, and already everyone is raining on his parade. "There was some hope that somebody with a bigger name would be chosen, so maybe from that perspective there is some disappointment," Lee Delaporte, director of research at Dreman Value Management, told Reuters. Business Week, along with everyone else, took it upon themselves to elucidate just how much this job sucks, and CNN called his résumé "flimsy." Well, at the very least, they know he's not going to pull a Jimmy Cayne. "I don't play golf. Period," Pandit told New York in 2002. "I'm sure I'd enjoy it, but I just never got good at it." But what do we really know about Vikram Pandit? After the jump, the salient facts of the 50-year-old CEO's life.