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Why Sandy Fired Jamie: The Reverse Hamlet Theory

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“Firing Jamie Dimon was the worst thing Sandy ever did,” the investment banker said. It was a glorious Friday afternoon. The weather had performed an April summersault, turning over from winter to what felt like summer almost overnight. It was the kind of weather that inspires people—okay, us—to leave work early and starting drinking with friends. Which is how we found ourselves looking out onto a narrow street in the East Village drinking pints and talking about Jamie Dimon, Sandy Weill, Citigroup and JP Morgan Chase.
“It was over something completely trivial,” the banker said. He definitely had our attention with this remark. Lots of people believe that Citigroup has suffered since Jamie Dimon was let go by his longtime mentor Sandy Weill. And a lot of people have theories about why this friendship soured. But we love hearing all of them. He took the head-off his pilsner while we waited for him to expand. This is an old interviewers trick—using silence to elicit elaboration. His counter-strategy of drinking more was testing the limits of his patience.
He took the bottom off his beer and looked to the bartender for another round. We broke. “Okay, okay. What was it? What was it that got him canned?” we asked.
The next round arrived. We placed a bill on the bar but kept our hand on it. The message in the motions: keep talking and this round is on DealBreaker.
“It was something involving his daughter. Sandy’s daughter,” he said. Our hand came off the bill. This round was definitely on us. What had happened between Dimon and little miss Weill that could get Dimon thrown out of Citigroup?
“Completely trivial. I think Weill wanted his daughter to get a job, some promotion. Dimon didn’t want to give it to her. Thought she was under-qualified,” he said. “The guy I work for was in the room one day when they had a fight over it. When the fight was over, apparently so was the relationship. It was very strange because Sandy and Jamie had this whole father-son thing going on. This was Sandy choosing blood over his more or less adopted child, Jamie. Like Hamlet in reverse. The step-father kills the kid. Or maybe King Lear, with Dimon as the daughter who won’t suck up to daddy Lear.”
We aren’t even going to call Dimon’s office to authenticate this. And certainly not Weill. They probably wouldn’t comment. And if they did comment, it would just be a denial. We’d actually heard this theory before but this was the first time we’d heard it from someone claiming to have anything this close to first hand knowledge of the dispute. It was second-hand knowledge but that's as close as anyone has ever got to this story.
The next round was on us also. Not as a reward for that story. It was, after all, an old and often told story. But as an enticement for the next one, the one about Dimon’s plans for acquisitions and his meeting with Bear Stearns executives. But that will have to wait for another post.