We're half-way through Steve Fishman's excellent cover story for the latest issue of New York, the subject matter being (a) Dick. While we take a second to catch our breaths, let's peel some layers from the Richard Severin Fuld, Jr. onion of understanding.
Before we get into the tortured soul of The Gorilla, and what are obviously deep-seated issues dating back to childhood, I say we lighten the mood and throw this out there.
Global head of investment banking: "Hugh Skip McGee."
You'd think Fuld would find kindred spirits in the Short Sellers, but no.
At about five-eight, Fuld isn't physically imposing.
Bleed Lehman Green, or bleed to death, motherfucker. Dick Fuld will slice you open with his face.
But he has intensely dark eyes and a deep, wide forehead that slopes so sharply it reminds some of a can opener. Those features, and a palpable inner intensity, give him an almost animalistic presence. "Through these little physical cues, he made it seem like [a situation] will lead to physical violence if you didn't relent," says one former executive.
Holy Stress Eater, Batman.
Fuld has a famously voracious appetite--senior executives sometimes ordered him a mid-morning plate of ribs.
Fuld would've taken a bullet for Gregory. A pink slip, not so much.
Actually, [the investment bankers] wanted two heads. They would spare Fuld the indignity of a coup, but they wanted him to fire Joe Gregory, Lehman's president, and Erin Callan, Gregory's protégée, whom he'd made CFO and who had been the public, sunny face of Lehman as it spiraled down. Firing Gregory would be personally devastating to Fuld, as the bankers knew. Over three decades at Lehman, the two had rarely sat more than a hundred feet from each other. Professionally, they were complements: Mr. Inside and Mr. Outside.
The ax fell the next day.
You knew this, but it still hurts.
He'd held on to 10 million shares of Lehman stock until the end and lost almost $1 billion--"He drank the Kool-Aid," said one executive.
I don't think I'm off-base in picturing Fuld's new office looking something like John Nash's circa the crazy.
These days, Fuld goes to his office in the Time & Life Building--he's still nominally the CEO of Lehman--and talks on the phone to a few former colleagues, those he'd been close to for years, replaying the final months of the firm. They often work one another to the edge of rage trying to decipher "the mystery," as Fuld still thinks of Lehman's collapse. Why didn't the government save Lehman the way it saved so many others, Bear Stearns and AIG and, just last week, Citigroup?
Maybe it has nothing to do with you, you ego-maniac? Maybe it has to do with Hank Paulson always having to beat his little brother at everything.
Fuld and his allies can't help but blame Paulson, whom he'd trusted and, until the end, viewed as an ally and even a friend. Yet Paulson, for reasons Fuld doesn't yet understand, participated in making him the scapegoat. "He feels betrayed," said one friend.
You'd think five houses, each equipped with its own auto-erotic asphyxiation room would help ease the pain, but you'd think wrong.
At night, Fuld has trouble sleeping. Most of the time, he lives in Greenwich, Connecticut, in one of his five houses. He can wander through the twenty rooms, eight bedrooms, the poolhouse, tennis court, squash court. Mostly, he sits and replays Lehman's calamitous end. "What could I have done differently?" he thinks. "In certain conversations, what should I have said, what could I have done?" How, he wonders, did it all go so disastrously wrong?