Jimmy Cayne Never Wanted To Be A Bank CEO Anyway

He’d much rather be bidding and tricking his way through the deck, and so he is.
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There are few unpardonable sins on Wall Street, almost no transgression or evidence of incompetence so serious as to preclude a second (or third or 10th or 150th) chance somewhere, often at your own hedge fund or private-equity firm. Just ask Vikram Pandit or Bob Diamond or Jon Corzine or, at a much less elevated level, literally anyone who has had a red flag about them brought to FINRA’s lack-of-attention. Sinking an icon of American finance, however, comes pretty close. Just ask Dick Fuld, who a decade after the financial crisis and ensuing death of his bank, Lehman Brothers, is running a multi-family office, or at least trying to.

Don’t bother asking Jimmy Cayne, however: The former Bear Stearns CEO never got a second chance after leading the firm he’d worked at for four decades into oblivion—and he never wanted one. Running a major investment bank was always something of a side gig to Jimmy’s true callings, getting high and contract bridge.

“Where he is now is where you’d expect him to be: doing what he loves—playing bridge,” his wife, Patricia Cayne, said this week. “He’s retired and doing what he loves the best. Actually, it was second best. Bear was first.”

Nice try, Mrs. C, but the Freudian slip speaks louder than the awkward cover-up. Add in the fact that protecting his reputation amongst his fellow tricksters was always more important to him that recovering any of his reputation on the Street, and how he now spends his time, and, well, case closed.

The former Bear Stearns Cos. chairman was in Philadelphia for the spring North American Bridge Championships. Mr. Cayne’s squad advanced to the final 16 at the Vanderbilt tournament, a marquee event at the seasonal competition, before bowing out on Thursday…. Former Bear colleagues who have crossed paths with him at bridge events say he splits his time between homes in Florida and New Jersey.

Of course, he’s got time for things other than playing bridge and getting baked, such as the occasional round on the links, some blogging, and settling scores. And rather than doing so with those who may have wronged him during his spectacular fall from grace, he’s doing so with old family friends, presumably ones with whom he does not play cards.

Last year, Mr. Cayne sued Wall Street executive Alexandra Lebenthal, alleging she refused to repay fully a $1 million personal loan he had given her in 2008. Ms. Lebenthal, a longtime friend to Mr. Cayne and daughter of renowned bond salesman James Lebenthal, argued she had been manipulated by the former Bear CEO. A New York judge ruled in his favor in October.

Ex-Bear Stearns CEO Is Off Wall Street But Still Mixing It Up at the Bridge Table [WSJ]

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