Bear Fight

Landon Thomas has a wonderful piece, full of color, on the spat between Jimmy Cayne and Ace Greenberg. Boy can these multimillionaires get petty:

Told that Mr. Cayne, with whom he worked for four decades, had lost much of his net worth and was suffering personally, Mr. Greenberg’s eyes turned cold. “Oh, really. Goodness, that’s a shame,” he deadpanned…

Mr. Greenberg wonders about Mr. Cayne’s continued presence at Bear Stearns. “I don’t understand why he comes in,” Mr. Greenberg said. “He is not employed here anymore.”…

While Mr. Cayne has always given Mr. Greenberg credit for his contributions to the firm, he has poked fun at his offbeat personality, including his nickname, Ace, which Mr. Cayne makes a point never to use. He has a standing order among some of his closer associates: Anyone who uses the name Ace in his presence owes Mr. Cayne $100.

The final straw for Mr. Cayne was Mr. Greenberg’s decision to charge Mr. Cayne a commission of $77,000 for the sale of his six million shares of Bear stock, a rate far above the maximum $2,500 commission that employees pay for a single trade. Since Mr. Cayne was not an employee anymore, he did not deserve such a rate, Mr. Greenberg said. “If he doesn’t like it, he should do his future business elsewhere,” he added.

This, by the way, is Greenberg being coy. I, like Floyd Norris, am looking forward to his unexpurgated memoirs.

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