"You don't have a gun; that's good."
That was how Richard Fuld greeted a Reuters reporter who had tracked him down to his country house in a bucolic setting beside a river and amid tree-covered slopes in Ketchum, Idaho last Friday.
The man vilified for the collapse of Lehman Brothers almost a year ago, a failure that triggered the global economic crisis, seemed burdened but not crushed by the pressure of the upcoming anniversary.
Standing on his gravelly driveway wearing a black fleece vest, dark gray shorts and sandals, Fuld indicated he was torn about speaking out in his own defense, partly because of ongoing litigation but also because he felt the world was not ready to listen.
"You know what? The anniversary's coming up," he said. "I've been pummeled, I've been dumped on, and it's all going to happen again. I can handle it. You know what, let them line up."
Fuld again emphasized his concern about what will be said and written about him in the days leading up to the Sept. 15 anniversary of the Lehman collapse but also stressed his ability to see it through.
"They're looking for someone to dump on right now, and that's me," Fuld lamented and later added: "You know what they say? 'This too shall pass."'
Fuld, 63, took Lehman's reins in 1994 when it was troubled and rebuilt it into the fourth-largest U.S. investment bank, a Wall Street powerhouse whose massively profitable mortgage banking machine inspired rivals' envy. Even Goldman Sachs was nervous.
But it was forced to file the biggest bankruptcy in U.S. history after it choked under the weight of souring assets and lost investor confidence, and as the U.S. government and Federal Reserve failed to find a buyer and decided not to come up with a rescue package.
Fuld was then humiliated before a Congressional panel last October as stock markets spiraled downwards. He was told by one politician that he was the designated "villain" of the day and screamed at by protesters who called for him to be jailed.
Since then, he has mostly ducked the spotlight, allowing an image of greed, arrogance and failure to cling unchallenged to his name.
In Ketchum on Friday, Fuld said he wanted to speak but didn't see the point. "Nobody wants to hear it. The facts are out there. Nobody wants to hear it, especially not from me."
The former CEO, who embraced the "gorilla" nickname that characterized his fierce and intimidating business style, looked and sounded sad as he lingered with the surprise visitor outside the house, which is beside a river in the Rocky Mountains.
Fuld, who said he had hiked up a nearby mountain earlier in the day, declined to speak about his current work.
But friends and acquaintances say he has started his own consulting firm named Matrix Advisors LLC, based out of an office on Third Avenue in New York. He is also doing some work for restructuring firm Alvarez and Marsal, helping to unwind Lehman free of charge, according to sources.
He commutes from his Greenwich, Connecticut estate into Manhattan about three to four times a week, and has been seen at breakfasts and lunches with former colleagues at top-class restaurants in New York and Greenwich.
"He's keeping a low profile but doing a lot of power-lunches," a top executive at a big investment bank said. "He's keeping in touch with friends on Wall Street."
But behind those power lunches is a man clearly worried about being slammed all over again.