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The Man Who Won Our 'Who's Got Your Back Poll' By A Whopping-- Yes 'Whopping'-- 26.9%

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Did a love of Parker Brothers board games, Monopoly in particular, get John Mack to return to the Dean Witter-tainted Morgan Stanley in 2005? According to the non-news driven article about the Lebanese Lothario* on Page One of today’s Wall Street Journal: maybe (always so vague, the Journalettes). As you probably know, after the train wreck that was the Morgan Stanley-Dean Witter merger, things got awkward between Mack and DW chief Philip Purcell, who became chairman and chief executive of the new company. So bad that Mack left in January 2001. Retirement (also known as running Credit Suisse Group) was going pretty well, until one day, Mack’s son, always the rabble-rouser, gifted his father with a “custom Monopoly board with a ‘Chance’ card that read: ‘A struggle with Phil Purcell finds you in a dilemma at MSDW. Should you stay or should you Go? You choose Go.” (Yes, let’s all pause to make sure we’ve taken that 72-hour pill within the allotted 72 hours. We’ll wait).
And that’s what it took to get the Mack Man back at helm of a Morgan Stanley whose business was in the toilet. MS had missed the train to private equity town. MS was dragging the dead weight that was (is) Discover. MS was making Merrill Lynch look good. Since sometime after that that fateful day, Mack’s been buying up everything from Tennessee Avenue to Waterworks (not to mention winning $10 after coming in second place in the beauty contest. True story).
As the J notes, “playing catch up” has come at a price. Namely: the $30 million to woo Stephen Trevor from Goldman and the concerns over the high risks of getting so involved in private equity by a staunchly investment banker bank. And they’re nowhere near Blankfein and Co., who have a $20 billion buyout fund/$28 billion in investments versus Morgan Stanley’s (projected to be) $6 billion buyout fund/$8 billion investments.
But Mack lives with the constant pressure of his Monopoly-gifting son breathing down his neck, and is working hard to make things better. He slashed paychecks for last year’s poor performers (a group that did not include John Mack, who got $41.4 million in 2006, a 38% raise). And Morgan Stanley’s share of global M&A deals grew to 39.6% this year, up from 2004’s 17.3% during Phil Purcell’s last full year in charge. And, of course, it landed the role of co-lead on the big Blackstone IPO. Morgan Stanley stock is up some ridiculous percentage too, although so is almost every other Wall Street stock.
A couple of years ago John Mack was telling Morgan Stanley’s bankers that they had lost their “swagger.” But, to judge from today’s Journal, it looks like the swagger is back with the Mack.
At Morgan Stanley, A Game of Catch-Up [WSJ]
*Carney'’s note: Calm down, boys. We’re not talking about Mack’s private life. We assume that the name “Mack the Knife” has nothing at all to do with his after-hours activities. We’re just referring to the fact that after he broke up with Morgan Stanley he certainly managed to get around Wall Street quite bit.
Earlier: Maybe If Dick Fuld Spent As Much Time Working On His Right Hook As He Did Worrying About Earnings, We Wouldn't Be Having This Discussion