emotions

Applying for a internship with one of Wall Street’s storied investment bank’s this summer? Think you’ve got a pretty good chance of landing the gig? Confident that you stack up to everyone else in the pool? Not if you’re going head to head with this guy,[1] whose qualifications speak for themselves:

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I’ve seen my share of odd moments during annual meetings, but until Thursday I’d never seen a grown man cry during one. O.K., maybe “cry” is a bit of an overstatement for what happened. Still, it was pretty startling when, in the middle of his speech to Target Corporation shareholders, William A. Ackman, the hedge fund manager who had waged an expensive, high-profile proxy fight against the company, suddenly choked up and stopped speaking. He wiped away a tear.Joe Nocera/NYT, May 29, 2009

The group met in a small conference room. Instead of the usual three SEC attorneys, only two were at that meeting. Gerald Russello, the attorney who had been leading the investigation, had taken a job in the general counsel’s office at Bear Stearns. The presentation was going according to plan when [Pershing Square's general counsel] noticed that Ackman was getting agitated. “I’ve shown you this fraud. I’ve shown you that fraud,” Ackman said. “What do I have to do? What do I have to prove to you before you take some action?” His face was flushed, his eyes misty.Christine Richard, Confidence Game, 2010

Without reading any further, [Pershing Square's general counsel] told his wife, “I may have to quit my job tomorrow.” His boss’s habit of writing long, emotional, late-night missives without having him vet them was one of the aggravations of his job. But this was the worst yet.Christine Richard, Confidence Game, 2010

Staring down the activist, the directors proposed installing Ingram as chairman, and chief financial officer Kathryn McQuade as interim CEO. Ackman’s furious outburst could be heard in an outside hallway, where a clutch of advisers was standing by…Half a year later, Ackman is asked to explain his Calgary outburst. “Ballistic is too strong a word,” he says. He searches long and hard for diplomatic words to explain his passionate reaction in the CP boardroom. “There were a lot of bruised feelings,” he says. “It took a while before we were able to work it out. The first few hours were not easy.” When it is suggested that his anger may be a deliberate act to unnerve his adversaries, he is incensed. “I don’t act, ever,” he says. “I’m exactly who I appear to be. I am unfiltered, for better or worse.”Globe and Mail, November 29, 2012

As has been discussed at length in the past, and as you can see from the above, Pershing Square founder Bill Ackman is an investor who wears his heart on his sleeve. A hedge fund manager who imbues emotion in everything he does. Sometimes those emotions come in the form of anger. Sometimes they come out in the form letters penned at 2AM to various SEC officials because what he had to say could not wait another few hours. More often than not, they come out as salty tears that were impossible to hold back.

Ackman’s emotional range has been well-documented and when a reporter recently questioned whether or not said emotions were real or simply a tactic to weird out his opponents, he informed her that what you see is what you get. Bill Ackman fakes nothing and furthermore, doesn’t deem it necessary to hold back when gripped by feelings, whatever they may be: unlike some money managers, whose facial expressions betray fewer hints of what they’re thinking or feeling than a corpse, Bill Ackman is man enough to let it all hang out, a quality that, for the record, we think he should highlight rather than distance himself from.

So it was a bit odd to see him tell Andrew Ross Sorkin this: Read more »

Over at the Journal today you will find a story called “Awkward Spot For Citi’s CEO,” which details the various awkwardness encountered by Mike Corbat since he took over as Chief Executive Officer, following Vikram Pandit’s awkward ousting. There is also a delightful bonus round of awkwardness that comes as a postscript to the article, but we’ll get the that later. First, why are things slightly awk for Corbat?

Well, for starters, he knew that Pandit was going to be unexpectedly and unceremoniously fired long before VP did, including the entire time they were on a business trip in Tokyo together. The whole time they were flying over there together, having dinner together, meeting with clients together, taking in shows and doing touristy things when they had downtime from the conference together, he knew Pandit was about to get hit by a truck. No one blames Corbat for Vickles being canned but, at the same time, there is a feeling by a few at Citi that you’d have to be some kind of monster to look a guy in the eye and say “Sure, a trip the the Zen Temples sounds great,” and take in the cherry blossoms and drink sake and do karaoke and fight over who is Scarlett Johansson and who is Bill Murray with him all the while knowing what was going to happen when you got home.

For Vikram Pandit, a trip to Tokyo for the International Monetary Fund and World Bank conference last month seemed routine. But Michael Corbat, the longtime Citigroup executive who joined Mr. Pandit there, knew better. Unbeknown to Mr. Pandit, Citigroup Chairman Mike O’Neill had told Mr. Corbat that the board could seek Mr. Pandit’s resignation as chief executive and hand the job to Mr. Corbat, according to people familiar with the situation. A day after Messrs. Pandit and Corbat returned to New York, that is exactly what happened. A host of financial, competitive and regulatory issues confronts the 52-year-old Mr. Corbat atop the nation’s third-biggest bank by assets. But no task is more critical than soothing workers unsettled by the way the board ousted Mr. Pandit and his longtime right-hand man, John Havens, who ran the investment bank and served as president and chief operating officer. The effort is made even more delicate by Mr. Corbat’s proximity to Mr. Pandit in the days before the coup. Executives say they don’t blame Mr. Corbat for Mr. Pandit’s overthrow, though some wondered how Mr. Corbat was able to sit through the IMF meetings knowing what was to unfold.

Additionally awkward is the fact that there has been chatter around the office and scrawled on the walls of the men’s room that there’s only enough room in this Citi for one guy named Mike, and it’s not Corbat.

Adding to Mr. Corbat’s challenges is the perception among some insiders that he is overshadowed by Mr. O’Neill. Employees have privately joked that of the two Mikes, it is Mr. O’Neill who is truly in charge. People close to Mr. O’Neill dispute that notion and say he has spent little time at his Citigroup office in the past month.

Finally, you have the awkwardness of Mike not only knowing his colleague Vikram was going to be fired, but that his colleague and friend, John Havens, was getting the boot himself, which may or may not have caused auxiliary awkwardness for Corbat on the home front.

Mr. Corbat’s position is all the more awkward given his close personal relationship with Mr. Havens. The two men spent time together outside of work, occasionally vacationing with their wives at Mr. Havens’ Scotland estate.

All good examples of things that could be characterized as awkward to be sure. However, the absolute most wonderful bit of awkwardness to be found in “Awkward Spot For Citi’s CEO,” is, without question, this: Read more »

When you have a guy– let’s call him Dick Fuld– who has spent a decent chunk of his career being referred to as “The Gorilla,” it’s difficult to impossible to expect underlings to assume that underneath the cold-blooded exterior beats the heart of sensitive soul. When this guy is known to speak in monosyllabic sentences and random outbursts, the notion that he wants to talk about feelings is a tough sell. When it’s common knowledge that, on at least one occasion, this guy has choked out the head of another company during a board meeting– and found nothing wrong with that– most people don’t figure it’s a wise idea to walk into this guy’s office, wrap their arms around him and tell him “it’s not your fault,” as he sobs and sobs, burying his face their your shoulder. That’s because most people didn’t really know Dick Fuld. One former employee though, Kevin White, was lucky enough to get a taste. Read more »

Remember this?

Time was, Jamie Dimon was referred to as “Obama’s favorite banker.” And for a while, he really was! And why shouldn’t he be? He’s a lifelong Democrat, he basically put Obama in office, he attended the 3-day inauguration in support of his guy. He’s extremely good-looking. He loves universal healthcare. He’s got charm and charisma dripping out of every orifice, he was one of the CEOs who didn’t fuck up and he’s not Lloyd Blankfein. I won’t even get started on the fact that he’s the guy who’ll make you laugh and he’s handy around the house. (Just know that those attributes were not discounted by the president.) And for a while, things between O and D (and their respective kingdoms) was good. Really good. Obama seemed to understand that Dimon wasn’t cut from the same cloth as “baldy,” it looked like JPM wouldn’t get punished for the sins of its peers and the President would openly acknowledge how great Jamie was, especially compared to the low-hanging fruit at Citi. Read more »

As you’re likely aware, one of the most important skills to master when you’re in this money making game is to be able to regulate your emotions. You can’t freak out every time you lose a little cash, and on the flip side, it’s probably a good idea to avoid doing an end-zone dance on the days you make it rain. Many of Wall Street’s most successful investors have perfected the art of staying cool and calm, with the best of the best being basically dead inside. Then you have Bill Ackman.

The Dead Inside model is not the one he’s chosen to follow over the course of his career. On the contrary, Bill is stuffed to the gills with emotion, and often feels compelled to let them out. No, scratch that. Letting his salty tears flow is not a choice, just like Ackman’s passion for standing up to institutions like MBIA and saying “J’accuse!” wasn’t a choice, it was his duty.

Obviously these raw and uncut displays of what Bill’s feeling haven’t prevented him from doing pretty well for himself. They have, however, caused a certain amount of agita for those around him. Bill’s visible tears at last year’s Target shareholder meeting were deeply distressing to Joe Nocera, who hasn’t yet evolved to the point where he’s comfortable seeing a grown man cry. And in Christine Richard’s Confidence Game: How A Hedge Fund Manager Called Wall Street Bluff, we learn of a couple other instances in which Bill’s inability to keep it locked up– one the adorable quirks we love most about him and probably the source of his success!– resulted in some minor and major fallout (making an employee uneasy and the enacting of the aforementioned Nut Kicking Rule, respectively). Richard writes: Read more »