—Mara Der Hovanesian, BusinessWeek
Last Man Standing: The Ascent of Jamie Dimon and JPMorgan Chaseby Duff McDonald
In the midst of the most disastrous economic climate of Wall Street’s history, one executive has weathered the storm more deftly than any other: Jamie Dimon, chairman and CEO of JPMorgan Chase. In 2008, while Dimon’s competitors watched their companies crumble, JPMorgan not only survived, it made an astonishing $5 billion profit. Dimon’s
In the midst of the most disastrous economic climate of Wall Street’s history, one executive has weathered the storm more deftly than any other: Jamie Dimon, chairman and CEO of JPMorgan Chase. In 2008, while Dimon’s competitors watched their companies crumble, JPMorgan not only survived, it made an astonishing $5 billion profit. Dimon’s continued triumph in the face of an industry-wide meltdown has made him a paragon of finance.
In Last Man Standing, award-winning journalist Duff McDonald provides an unprecedented and deeply personal look at the extraordinary figure behind JPMorgan’s success. Using countless hours of interviews with Dimon and his full circle of friends, family, and colleagues, this definitive biography is by far the most comprehensive portrait of the man known as the Savior of Wall Street.
Now, in an updated prologue, McDonald offers insight into the future of Wall Street and how Dimon will overcome the challenge of aggressive new regulation from Washington—and how he plans to continue to thrive as the world’s preeminent banker.
—Mara Der Hovanesian, BusinessWeek
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Read an Excerpt
On the morning of September 18, 2008, the phone rang in Jamie Dimon’s office. It was Hank Paulson, the secretary of the treasury. For the second time in six months, Paulson had a pressing question for the chairman and CEO of JPMorgan Chase. Would Dimon be interested in acquiring the floundering investment bank Morgan Stanley—at no cost whatsoever?
During one of the most tumultuous months in the history of the stock market—stocks fell 27 percent between August 29 and October 10, 2008—the storied investment bank Lehman Brothers had already failed, the brokerage giant Merrill Lynch had been sold to Bank of America, and the insurance heavyweight AIG had received an emergency loan of $85 billion from the federal government. One of the only remaining questions was whether it would be Morgan Stanley or Goldman Sachs that fell next. The government was desperately seeking to stave off what could have been a wipeout of Wall Street. And here was Paulson, offering Dimon Morgan Stanley for the bargain basement price of $0 per share.
At the government’s urging, Dimon had agreed to take over Bear Stearns for $2 a share in March 2008, in a whirlwind 48-hour deal. (The price was ultimately raised to $10.) The transaction had catapulted JPMorgan Chase to the forefront of the financial industry and established Dimon as the government’s banker of last resort. “Some are coming to Washington for help,” Sheila Bair, chairman of the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation, later said. “Others are coming to Washington to help.”
Considered in a historical light, a takeover of Morgan Stanley would have been much more profound than that of Bear Stearns. Dimon was already being compared to John Pierpont Morgan, the legendary banker who was his company’s founder, and this deal would have meant a reassembling of the empire that had been forcibly dismantled during the Great Depression, when banks were barred from the securities trade. Dimon, in other words, would have been sitting atop the very same empire his firm’s namesake had lorded over nearly a century before.
But it was not to be. Dimon reportedly said he’d discuss it with his board, but his initial view was that his bank shouldn’t do it—it would involve a bloodbath for employees on both sides, a doubling of risk, and years of distraction for the company. What’s more, the ultimate cost of a deal would have been quite substantial, whether in terms of layoffs, writedowns, or a de-risking of Morgan Stanley’s balance sheet. (Dimon has always said it doesn’t make sense for two major investment banks to merge.) Moreover, his team was already busy preparing a bid to take over the deposits and loans of the Seattle-based bank Washington Mutual, also on the verge of failure.
The amazing thing: Paulson really didn’t have anyone else to turn to. Dimon was quite literally the only chief of a major bank to have properly prepared for the hundred-year storm that had hit Wall Street with such vengeance. Everyone had known that the capital base of the financial sector had been in desperate need of shoring up, but Jamie Dimon was alone among his peers in having actually done something instead of just talking about it. As a result, of all the actions taken by the government in the fifteen months since the crisis had started, the only thing that had really worked was giving it to Jamie. Which is exactly why a desperate Paulson was trying to do it again. But he proved unable to persuade Dimon to pull off a third major deal in 2008. Morgan Stanley eventually pulled through. But even without this deal, Dimon’s reputation continued to ascend to new heights. In the midst of the most serious and far-reaching financial crisis since the 1930s—much of it caused by plain old avarice and bad judgment—Dimon and JPMorgan Chase stood apart. Much of the melodramatic coverage of Wall Street postcrisis has focused on its flaws—the hubris and the greed. Jamie Dimon’s story contains the opposites—the values of clarity, consistency, integrity, and courage. By sticking to them, Dimon has unquestionably become the dominant banking executive of his era. “Banking is a very good business if you don’t do anything dumb,” says Warren Buffett. “Morris Shapiro said long ago that there are more banks than bankers, and that’s fundamentally the problem. But Jamie is a banker from head to toe.”
© 2009 Duff McDonald
Meet the Author
A contributing editor at The New York Observer, Duff McDonald has also written for Vanity Fair, The New Yorker, New York magazine, Fortune, and Esquire, among other publications.
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After being decidedly disappointed with the House of Dimon I was pleasantly surprised with Duff McDonald's, Last Man Standing: The Ascent of Jamie Dimon and JPMorgan Chase. McDonald doesn't get so caught up in the rush ahead to gleefully talk about present day events but instead takes a more tried & true approach of walking the reader chronologically through his early childhood, provides background into his heritage, parents and sibling. All of which allows a person who may already be familiar with Dimon to gain an additional few dimensions of what went into his development as a person. One aspect that feels uncomfortable is that early on McDonald seems to be cobbling together pieces of other books to recreate his novel. While good for a historical thesis because it shows detail of research it begs the question, why read this book when I should be reading the ones McDonald quotes ad nausea. It was also interesting to see the juxtaposition of the description of events particularly Dimon's final days at Citibank in comparison to those described in Sandy Weill's tomb, The Real Deal: My Life in Business and Philanthropy. There is of course the very historic blow-up between Dimon & Maughan that seems to contain less expletives then other renditions I've read as well as a more detailed look at that final meeting where Weill tells Dimon it's time for him to go. While this isn't an autobiography one can tell that McDonald did have pretty good access to Dimon as well as several people close enough to him to be able to provide that counter-perspective. It's also great that McDonald still took the time to go through Dimon's experiences at Bank One from how he whiled away his time following his Citibank departure to the early recruiting at Bank One and then to eventual take-over of the institution and the initiatives he implemented. The flow and cadence are well done to enable the reader to digest each event as they occur without the unnecessary correlation to how a specific skill helped him later in his career until we get to the crescendo of the piece which is, naturally, Dimon's return triumphant return to New York City with JPMorgan Chase. But the crescendo itself is somewhat underwhelming in the details. When one reads other novels around the financial crisis, particularly those involving Bear Stearns or even Andrew Ross Sorkin's, Too Big to Fail: The Inside Story of How Wall Street and Washington Fought to Save the Financial System - and Themselves you get a sense that there was a lot more meat on the bones that McDonald could have put together in relation to Dimon and the actions he (or his team) took. And yet all in all, this book delivers more then what one could have read in various news publications/stories and provides the reader a nice in-depth look at the man who for all intents and purposes was.the last man standing.
Great book but I am half way through it and the book stopped launching on my Nookcolor. I was told through customer service that it was a "content problem" and they had to send it back to the publisher after 3 weeks of calling and wasting hours of speaking to a rep and having me do a number of troubleshooting exercises and even after they send me a replacement nook.