William Cohan stole WSJ reporter Kate Kelly’s thunder by publishing his Bear Stearns account, House of Cards, three months before hers, but Kelly’s book, Street Fighters, makes up for its poor timing with a surfeit of detail. For instance, in an excerpt printed this weekend, we learned exactly what everyone involved with the government rescue of Bear Stearns was doing on Thursday, March 13, 2008, the night CEO Alan Schwartz discovered the bank was nearly out of cash.
Then–New York Fed chairman Tim Geithner “was eating dinner with his wife and children at their suburban home when Bear’s CEO called with terrible news.” Chicken fingers and broccoli “trees” will never taste the same to the Treasury secretary again.
Schwartz’s call also interrupted JPMorgan CEO Jamie Dimon’s 52nd-birthday celebration with his family, Kelly reports.
“Let’s do something,” the Bear CEO had told him. It was too short notice for a wholesale purchase of Bear, he knew, but the firm wouldn’t open on Friday without a quick cash infusion. He asked Mr. Dimon to consider providing a $25 billion line of credit. Mr. Dimon agreed to look in to it.
Thank God he was wasted, or he might have said no. Then he put aside his cake and cosmopolitan and called Steve Black, his point person on a deal of this nature.
On vacation with his family in Anguilla, Mr. Black, the co-chief of J.P. Morgan’s investment bank and an old ally of Mr. Dimon’s from their shared days at Citibank, had left his cellphone back at the hotel while he dined out with his wife. Mr. Dimon needed to figure out where his division head was eating and get the phone number of that restaurant.