As you're aware, Meredith Whitney struck out on her own last month to found an eponymously named firm based on the same principles of ass kicking and testicle clamping that made her famous. But what else can we expect from the new shop? In a New York profile today, the Dollar Dominatrix offers some hints.
An air of Paris.
Meredith Whitney, dressed in a tightly ﬁtted plum velvet jacket and towering red patent-leather heels, is giving me a tour of her new ofﬁces. "This will be where our research juniors are, this room is gonna be sales," the former Oppenheimer & Co. analyst says, gesturing grandly across the 5,000 square feet of raw space above Lexington Avenue. She could almost be describing a full-ﬂedged investment bank, which isn't far from her aspirations.
"I joke that this has to be the Ken Chenault conference room, because he comes in and does an event for me every year," Whitney continues in her breathy voice, referring to the chief executive of American Express. "I just want to make it nice! I'm also going to use this space to have writers, managements, thought leaders come in and entertain, like a salon series."
Answering to no one, being in charge, saying who, saying when, saying yadda yadda yadda.
At the same time, she is trying to capitalize on her moment, and she's so conﬁdent that she's ﬁnancing the new venture herself. "I had people be like, 'Oh, let me give you seed capital, yadda yadda,' " Whitney says. "I'm not working for anyone anymore. That's full-stop done. I'm never going back."
"The funny thing is, in your twenties you try and look serious, and after your twenties, you just try and look hot," she jokes. "I'm not an old white dude, so I stick out."
"Ooh! who are those from?" Whitney squeals, catching sight of a congratulatory box of cookies by her assistant's desk. "That is so sweet!" She is working out of a bare room she refers to as the "fallout shelter" until the renovations are complete.
An exclusive VIP list at the door.
"What I love about this model is the simplicity. If clients want my research, they pay for it," Whitney continues. "What's frustrating for so many sell-side analysts is, your research goes off into the never-never land, and so many people get access to it and don't pay for it. I imagine I'll cut thousands from my distribution list. That's cathartic."
What we're PRAYING is a new wrestler rolled out by the WWE called 'The Financier,' whose first match has her rumbling with a certain JBL.
She pulls off a winning high-low combination--a brainiac with an Ivy League pedigree (Brown) and a glammy party girl who's married to a WWE wrestler. His name is John Layﬁeld, and in the ring, he plays an evil oilman inspired by J.R. Ewing, of the eighties hit TV show Dallas. He's not the sort you're likely to meet at Manhattan cocktail parties. He's a postmodern jack of all trades, peddling something called Mamajuana Extreme, a "virility" elixir, online, and also working gigs as a stock analyst. In 2004, he was ﬁred from CNBC after he goose-stepped like a Nazi in a wrestling skit in Munich.
A lot of what-EVERs, a lot of 'Talk to tha hands.'
After she issued her infamous report on Citi on Halloween 2007 (the title, "Is Citigroup's Dividend Safe? Downgrading Stock Due to Capital Concerns," now sounds tame), she was shocked by the intensity of the reaction. "I knew it would be a big deal, but I didn't know it would be a market-crashing event," she says. "It provoked fury amongst people. Rage, fury, and the dismissal of it, like, 'Oh, what does she know, you know, who is she?' I was just like, Whatever. If anyone ever told me that my math was wrong? That would have gotten me. That's worse than telling me that I'm fat."
Vikram Pandit's face on a punching bag.
To cope, Whitney started working out with a celebrity trainer named Jay Cardiello, whom she'd met at Bikini Boot Camp, a ﬁtness retreat she attends every year with her girlfriends in Mexico. Cardiello put Whitney on a regimen that lasted for months: They met at the gym twice a day, once at 5 a.m. and again at eight or nine at night, for an hour and a half each time. "I made the right call!" she assured herself before jabbing into Cardiello's boxing mitts. "I was right! I was right! I was right!"
Finding out which banks are going down before they bite the big one, provided *someone* isn't scared to get in trouble.
According to a just-published book about the collapse of Bear Stearns called House of Cards, by William Cohan, Whitney became convinced that Bear was insolvent during the week leading up to the company's emergency sale to JPMorgan, in March 2008. She'd been cowed by the reaction to her Citigroup report, however, and decided not to publish a piece about Bear. "It was a conscious choice not to write anything," she told Cohan. "Because I thought it was such a tenuous situation that I was going to get in serious trouble."