If Barclays ends up losing ABN Amro to the consortium headed by RBS, one thing
that CEO John Varley might be quite happy about will be the
prospect of not having to move to Amsterdam.
Amsterdam is a pleasant city, to be sure – but it’s hardly the center
of the financial universe. London is.
London’s only rival as a financial capital is New York. But just as Barclays
is saying that it wants to move to Amsterdam, JP Morgan Chase is claiming
that it might consider moving to Stamford. OK, the distance from London
to Amsterdam – 221 miles – is bigger than the distance from New
York to Stamford, which is just 32 miles. But at least Amsterdam is home to
some big banks. There are big banks with presences in Stamford, but
none with headquarters there.
I’m skeptical that JP Morgan is really serious about this whole Stamford thing
– for one thing, I certainly wouldn’t want to be the person charged with
telling David Rockefeller the news. Really, it’s just an attempt to squeeze
tax breaks out of the city and state of New York, which is a bit cheap considering
the amount of money that JP Morgan is making these days.
The real story here is that Chase wants the same kind of deal that Goldman
Sachs got to build its new headquarters on West Street. But that wasn’t
the result of Goldman being underhand, it was the result of utter incompetence
on the part of George Pataki, who vetoed Goldman’s plans before
changing his mind. That kind of thing tends only to happen once.