Last week we bemoaned the fact that it was William Cohan's--and not Charlie Gasparino's-- new book that would be the first to have Jimmy Cayne on record calling Treasury Secretary Geithner a gay clerk with a hard on, and assumed the CG was feeling equally down in the dumps. Lucky for us and you, Chaz picked himself up off the bathroom floor, wiped those tears, told himself "you're better than this," and gave us more than we could ever ask for. I don't even know where to start, because the whole thing goes back and forth in time, and, like most great love stories, is sort of rambling, so we'll just take the hits as they come.
Betrayal. Cayne apparently refers to CG as a "snake" in Cohan's book.
As we know today, Bear's implosion was merely a blip on the radar screen, a prelude to a much larger, much scarier story that is still unfolding, and may take years to fully comprehend. And yet, Bear, and its top executives, like former CEO Jimmy Cayne, still provide a bit of comic relief when they take their breaks from spending time at the country club--or in Cayne's case, between hands of his favorite obsession, playing bridge--to speak their minds.
Last week, I got a taste of what Cayne was thinking. He referred to me as a "snake" in a new book about the fall of Bear...
Confusion. How could Cayne have done that? After calling CG only a few weeks earlier and whispering sweet nothings through the phone? Had that meant nothing to the bastard CEO? CG had to find out.
So I reached out to Cayne again this week to hear from him personally if he actually made those remarks about me, because it certainly didn't sound like the man I received an impromptu phone call from a few weeks earlier. Whether his call was early damage control--because he knew the book was coming out--or simply a chance to do what he liked to do when he was one of the most powerful men on Wall Street, I couldn't say.
Flashbacks. Of course, this was in the capricious brute's character. One day he's telling you he loves you, the next day it's like, "Chaz who?"
It should be noted that Cayne stopped talking to me in December 2007, when I broke a story that the board of Bear was beginning to look to have him replaced, signaling that the man who once controlled the firm with an iron fist was losing this control.
Loyalty Or Lack Thereof. EVEN THOUGH Gaspo is the only one who's ever really cared about him, which is more than we can say for certain WSJ reporters.
I had been hounding him for months--though I refused to report a Wall Street Journal story that he smoked pot (I never saw him high at work so it didn't matter to me)--and I covered just about every problem the firm and Cayne was facing, from writedowns of losses and the federal inquiry into its imploded hedge funds to an "investigation" conducted by his country club into whether Cayne cheated on his golf scores. And while Cayne certainly complained to me over the years, he never cut me off, until then.
The Inability To Quit You.
I have to admit I've always liked Jimmy Cayne. I've always found him informed, charming, and really funny...
I Love You! I Hate You! I Love You! I Didn't Mean It, You Just Hurt Me So Bad!
But now, Jimmy Cayne just seems tragic.
Just Two Boys From The Neighborhood. You guys could never understand the bond.
So why did Cayne like me when he could be so brutal about everyone else? Some of it had to do with class; Cayne knew where I came from, the son of an iron worker, and himself being a college dropout who made it big, he resented the Ivy League-hierarchy of the press that pervaded much of Wall Street. He knew how the game was played: Bankers from Harvard or Yale leaking stories to reporters from Harvard or Yale. He saw me in the image of the typical Bear Stearns employee--hungry and aggressive. More than that, Cayne was pulling a page from one of his favorite movies, The Godfather Part Two, when Michael Corleone described his father's management style: "Keep your friends close but your enemies closer." In the end, Cayne knew I had a job to do, and that was to cover Wall Street, Bear included.
Pet Names, and Missing You So Much It Hurts.
When he reached me, Cayne started off by saying calling me "Sir Charles," the name he always referred to me when we spoke, and then remarked that it's been "awhile." (More than a year, in fact.)
You're The Only One Who's Ever Loved Me For Me.
"Listen," he said, "I was driving my car in Florida playing this channel called CNBC, and I hear you say something nice about me. No one ever says anything nice about me anymore."
I Can't Live Without You.
"I never sold stock," Cayne reminded me. "I believed in my own stuff.
I played it straight."
I agreed, thanked him for the call, and said we should get together soon. He said we will in a few weeks. I'm sure we'll have lots to discuss.