You would think that a guy who once put someone in a chokehold during a boardroom meeting, told a trader who asked him a question he didn't like, "I ought to break your legs for that," got into physical altercations with other parents at his son's hockey games, ate without utensils, and threatened to smash an iron through the face of everyone shorting his company and then bite of each and everyone of their fingers one by one would like being nicknamed "The Gorilla." Good for inspiring fear, macho, proves he can grow facial hair, whatever. If we're talking about Dick Fuld, however, who apparently started every morning by standing in front of the mirror, scrutinizing his resemblance to Cro-Magnon Man, spent an hour each afternoon with a physical therapist attempting to train his knuckles to not drag on the ground as he walked, and considered bringing in someone to help him speak in complete sentences (rather than grunts), you'd think wrong. Obviously this heretofore unknown image issue is broached by Charlie Gasparino, in his new book (out today!), The Goddamn Beatin' That Bear Stearns (And Others) Took:
At a dinner following Lehman's annual strategy seminar at the Marriott Hotel, investment banking chief Michael] Madden got ready to give his remarks and have a little fun at Fuld's expense. "Everybody knows the guys who run our wonderful company," Madden said to a round of snickers from the half-drunk crowd, pointing to Fuld and [investment banker Tom] Hill in the front row. "It's Tom and Dick. Now, I haven't been here that long, but everybody tells me these guys go everywhere together and they're like twins. There's only one problem," he added with a smile, "they don't look like twins. But I know how to fix that. Tom, can you come up here?"
Hill got up, walked nervously to the podium, and stood beside Madden, who whipped out a large, hairy mask or a gorilla and promptly placed it over Hill's head." The place went wild. Even Hill thought the joke was funny. But not Dick Fuld, who shot Madden one of his famous death stares and didn't say another word to him for the entire evening and barely a word for the next year--when Madden, despite winning deals and establishing Lehman's investment bank as an increasingly potent competitor on deals, was fired.
What Madden didn't realize until after he was gone was that Fuld hated being called "The Gorilla" because the nickname didn't just come from his legendary temper and aggressive trading style. People at the firm thought he actually looked and sounded like a gorilla, with his pitch black eyes, his forehead that protruded like a block of cement, and the way spoke: as a young trader, Fuld had been so intense that he often didn't speak in full sentences.