Friday, August 1, 2014

A00121 - Alan Greenberg, Head of Bear Stearns

Wall Street Bids Farewell to Alan Greenberg, Head of Bear Stearns

Alan C. Greenberg at his desk at Bear Stearns in 1980, two years after he became chief executive.Credit Fred R. Conrad/The New York Times

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Alan D. Schwartz, the head of Bear Stearns during its final days in 2008, put his arm around Leslie Moonves, the chief of CBS, who stiffened his bottom lip.
Once the casket had traveled down the aisle, Mr. Schwartz spotted Nelson Peltz, the white-haired activist investor, and saluted him.
“It’s great you’re here,” Mr. Schwartz said. “He would have loved it.”
A selection of Wall Street’s old guard, including many alumni of Bear Stearns, turned up on Tuesday at a temple on Manhattan’s Upper East Side to bid farewell to Alan C. Greenberg, the longtime leader of Bear Stearns and the embodiment of its risk-loving culture, who died on Friday at 86.
The service began on time at 11 a.m. and lasted just about an hour, honoring the no-nonsense style of Mr. Greenberg, who was known as Ace. The mourners recalled his idiosyncratic business advice, his love of big-game hunting and his magic tricks. A representative of the Society of American Magicians, as is customary, snapped Mr. Greenberg’s magic wand in two.
“What Ernest Hemingway was to the world of 20th century literature, Alan Greenberg was to the world of 20th century finance,” Ronald B. Sobel, the senior rabbi emeritus, told the assembly. “Both were intrigued by bulls — Hemingway by the bulls of Spain and Alan by the bulls of Wall Street.”
Bulls and bears alike filled the benches of Temple Emanu-El, a sea of dark and finely tailored suits. Samuel Molinaro Jr., who was the chief financial officer of Bear Stearns when it collapsed under the weight of soured mortgage bets, greeted former colleagues. John A. Paulson, the hedge fund manager who made a fortune during the crisis by betting against mortgages, was also in attendance.
John A. Catsimatidis, the billionaire owner of the Gristedes grocery store chain, who last year ran for mayor of New York, called Mr. Greenberg “the last of his kind,” adding that “you could shake hands with Ace, and know you didn’t have to have anything in writing.”
JPMorgan Chase, the bank that bought Bear Stearns in a fire sale, and where Mr. Greenberg kept an office, provided buses from the temple to its headquarters on Park Avenue.
“I think 98 percent of the people who knew him are here,” said Elliot Wolk, 79, a longtime trader at Bear Stearns. “Except probably one.”
He was referring to James E. Cayne, Mr. Greenberg’s successor at Bear Stearns and his onetime friend. The two went through a messy split as Bear Stearns stumbled, with Mr. Greenberg blaming his former protégé for the firm’s problems.
Mr. Schwartz, who took over from Mr. Cayne in early 2008, brushed the feud aside, saying the topic should be avoided.
“When something like Bear happens, there’s always going to be some disagreements,” said Mr. Schwartz, who is now the executive chairman of Guggenheim Partners. “Don’t go there.”
Alan Greenberg’s 2012 interview with Bloomberg Television on the final days of Bear Stearns.]
The service attracted a number of business titans. (A reporter for BuzzFeed said he spotted Donald Trump arriving late through a side door.) On the lips of many were tales of an earlier era on Wall Street, when investment banks were privately held by their partners.
Mr. Schwartz, who joined Bear Stearns in 1976, said Mr. Greenberg offered him a place to stay for a few months when he moved to New York in 1978. E. John Rosenwald Jr., a longtime colleague of Mr. Greenberg’s, recalled in his remarks during the service that the two of them would get rides to work from John H. Gutfreund, who was on his way to becoming the head of Salomon Brothers, and who drove a green convertible.
Apart from his magic tricks, Mr. Greenberg was known for his quips. Mr. Rosenwald recalled his friend’s response when people would ask him why he only took vacations in the United States and never in Europe.
“It took my grandparents generations to get out of there,” Mr. Greenberg would say. “Why should I go back?”
When Mr. Greenberg would give gifts, he would attach prewritten thank-you notes, his son, Ted, recalled. When his children would run off on some escapade, Mr. Greenberg would advise them to have fun, “but control costs.”
Ted Greenberg read from a letter his father had written to his wife, Kathy, with requests for the funeral. Most of the directions — “Temple Emanu-El should be big enough” — were followed.
“I would like to be buried in the simplest casket available,” Mr. Greenberg wrote. “I think spending money on caskets is a waste.”
“If you can’t find one, let me know,” the letter continued. “I will build one in my workshop in the Hamptons.”
On that point, the family denied Mr. Greenberg’s wish.
“We blew $600 on the casket,” his son said. Referring to a private club in Manhattan, he added, “We’ll try to make it back in the Harmonie Club shiva.”

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