Grasso tells his side of NYSE story, and it's not pretty

ByABC News
November 12, 2007, 2:02 AM

— -- Four years after being ousted as chairman and CEO of the New York Stock Exchange because of a dispute over how much he was paid, Dick Grasso finally gets to tell his side of the story.

King of the Club by Charles Gasparino describes Grasso's rise from humble beginnings in Queens to the apex of Wall Street.

The public was outraged over the size of his salary and benefits, since Grasso was supposedly running a not-for-profit institution. Several board members claimed they didn't know the magnitude of his compensation package.

In the years since, Grasso has been fighting the New York attorney general, who said his pay violated the law governing pay packages at not-for-profits. It mandates that pay be "fair and reasonable."

Grasso also has been fighting to restore his image in the media. After 9/11, Grasso was hailed for getting the New York Stock Exchange up and running in less than a week.

But after the pay fiasco, Grasso was portrayed as a greedy, imperious character who turned a public trust, the NYSE, into a vehicle for his own enrichment and self-aggrandizement.

Now, Grasso, his former public relations chief Robert Zito and other supporters have reached out to writer Gasparino to set the record straight.

Here's the surprise: Grasso still emerges from his own version of the story as a greedy, imperious character who turned the NYSE into a vehicle for his own enrichment and self-aggrandizement.

The story of Grasso's career should be inspiring a rags-to-riches tale of a kid from Queens who takes a job in the listings department of the NYSE and works his way to the top.

But in this book, the story of Grasso's rise isn't uplifting. It's almost vengeful. Early on, Gasparino writes, Grasso had a chip on his shoulder against his absentee father, against privileged kids who didn't have to fight on the front lines in Vietnam (not that Grasso was anywhere near the front lines himself), against the blue-blooded WASPs who enjoyed a privileged position on Wall Street.