Bleeding Green: The Fall of Fuld

Perhaps the most tangible sign that Fuld's star had fallen, however, came with a change of venue -- the Wall Street Journal reported last week that Fuld was "banished" from his corner office in Lehman's Seventh Avenue headquarters and instead moved to a Sixth Avenue building, where he and other Lehman executives who weren't offered jobs at Barclays will continue to work through Lehman's bankruptcy proceedings.

To say that Fuld was in a dramatically different position one year ago would be an understatement roughly the size of Lehman's bankruptcy itself.

Last March, he was named in Barron's list of the world's 30 best CEOs. The magazine dubbed Fuld "Mr. Wall Street," praised him for his passion and recognized him for turning "a bond shop into an elite investment bank."

Under Fuld's stewardship, Lehman's net income increased more than six times over, from $647 million in 1997 to $4.2 billion 10 years later. That year, Fuld himself received more than $70 million in salary, stock options and other compensation, according to the compensation firm James F. Reda and Associates.

He was credited with bringing new success to the 150-year-old firm by expanding the firm's services well beyond bond trading to include work on multibillion-dollar merger deals and asset management, among others.

Fuld "is the most intense person I've ever met in my life," said Bruce Foerster, who served as the head of Lehman's global equities syndicate from 1992 to 1994. "When he walks into a room, it's electric. He's electric."

That electricity could be intimidating.

"You weren't easygoing around Dick Fuld," Foerster said. "You took a couple of extra breaths of air before you started talking to him just so you had some extra oxygen in your brain."

But "the gorilla," as he was known by some, was not too tough to express emotion.

In 2003, when accepting a "Bank of the Year" honor at an awards gala in London, Fuld's voice cracked as he gave an emotion-laden speech, according to the Financial Times newspaper.

Fuld: The 'Digital Mind Trader'

"This is for my people. Lehman stand! Troops, be recognized. Everyone at Lehman in this room, stand and be recognized," he said.

According to Foerster, now the president of South Beach Capital Markets in Miami, Fuld proved himself long before Lehman's success could be seen on paper.

In 1984, Lehman was acquired by American Express. Ten years later, Lehman was spun off, but its newly regained independence didn't come without some significant stumbling blocks, including in-fighting.

"We're lucky we survived and I think we did it on the back and on the strength of Dick's leadership," Foerster said. "He started to create a feeling of togetherness. ... A culture of the client was more important than the firm, and the firm was more important than the individual."

Fuld's growing reputation as a leader, however, came as a surprise to observers such as Ken Auletta, media critic for New Yorker magazine and the author of the 1986 book "Greed and Glory on Wall Street: The Fall of the House of Lehman," which chronicled the events that led to Lehman's purchase by American Express.

Fuld joined Lehman as a trader in 1969. He eventually became known as the "digital mind trader," Auletta told, in part because the amount of time he spent with his eyes locked on his computer screen.

  • 1
  • |
  • 2
  • |
  • 3
Join the Discussion
blog comments powered by Disqus
You Might Also Like...