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Almost a dozen years ago, we sought to crowd-source a title for outgoing Morgan Stanley chief John Mack's book. Alas, even with all of that time on his hands, the best he could come up with was Up Close and All In. And, according to one of his former underlings, it doesn’t get any better from there.

It has many of the elements that made the ultimate Wall Street book, Liar’s Poker, sparkle — rivalry, camaraderie, japes and high stakes — but sadly told without the style or irony of Michael Lewis.

Does it include that time he told New York Fed Chair and future Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner to “get fucked” during the global financial crisis? Of course it does. How about the one where he got so drunk at the Waldorf that a future president of the United States had to carry him out “on his back”? Well, we haven’t read it, but we’re guessing probably not. Does it include any doubts about how he conducted himself leading up to and during said global financial crisis, which required an emergency $9 billion cash infusion from the Japanese to keep Morgan Stanley afloat? Definitely not.

Mack’s own account shows how his hunger to catch up with other firms meant that he missed the signals leading up to the financial crisis. He recounts how he didn’t realise Merrill Lynch was so vulnerable until the Sunday before Lehman failed. Moreover, Mack says that unlike Goldman he had not studied the benefits of becoming a bank to take advantage of the Fed being the lender of last resort…. friend and former Morgan Stanley colleague Steve Eisman — of Big Short fame — was literally shouting at top management that things were going down…. The Thursday before the weekend Lehman went bust, I met with hedge fund manager John Paulson in New York to discuss the best shorts among European financials. At the close of an intense hour he said thanks but then asked me why I wasn’t writing up my resume as Morgan Stanley would probably be bankrupt in a month or two. In my debrief later that day, I told Mack about the tone of my meetings and some investors’ conviction of Morgan Stanley’s imminent failure. Mack had absolutely zero doubts that his bank would somehow be fine….

“I have fucking killed it. I knocked the cover off the ball in the financial world,” Mack says in the epilogue.

In other words, don’t waste a valuable Christmas ask on Mack’s tome if you’re looking for anything approaching insight or introspection. But if you’re an afficionado of the finer points of Wall Street frivolity—and, dear reader, we know you are—then it’s worth every bit of the $28.99 cover price.

He is a self-confessed “incorrigible prankster”. One time he puts a piece of salmon sushi into the mouthpiece of a trader’s phone for several days so he and the floor could see the trader getting “worried sick” about halitosis. “Every desk is a place to hide under” he recounts.

Mack is all too aware of his non-Ivy League background…

Oh, the plight of the Duke scholarship boy!

…lacking the “Mayflower manners of previous hires” and delighted to put the fear of God into “frat-house charm balls who needed a motivated kick in the ass”.

Mack knifed [FT]

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Earlier today, KKR announced that former Morgan Stanley Chairman and CEO John Mack will be joining the private equity firm as a senior adviser, "supporting new investing activities and providing counsel to KKR portfolio companies." Including the new gig, Mack is now working three jobs, the others being "part-time adviser" to Morgan Stanley and author (as previously noted, he's working on a book). And while it's nice to see him keeping busy, you know what these little diversions don't leave a lot of time for? Going after his dream. As you may recall, back in December Mack told a room full of Morgan Stanley employees that if he hadn't become a banker, he would have been a women's shoe salesman and that in the years since he chose one path over another, the former has never come close to replacing the latter when it comes to things that light a fire inside him. Even when he was CEO of Credit Suisse and Morgan Stanley, Mack found time to stop by Bergdorf Goodman and "watch the fierce New York ladies trying on Manolo Blahniks," often advising them on what to purchase, based on which pairs spoke to him and which did not ("Those-- those are the ones. Get them," he would say with undeniably certainty). Which was why, Mack said with a glimmer in his eye, his retirement would include being a "part-time salesman at Berdorf's." And, yet, here we are, more than three months later, and no such job has been procured. What's more, a spokeswoman for the department store has said that despite possessing an undeniable love and appreciation for shoes and being a born salesman, in order to work the floor, Mack would have to go through the same training program, just like everyone else, and he hasn't even filled out the application to do so. Why the hold up? It seems pretty obvious that when it comes to the thing that makes him feel alive someone is scared. Not scared to fail-- hell, he knows he can move that product. But scared the reality won't live up to the dream. Scared that years from now, selling shoes will just be a slog like everything else. So he takes these bull shit little advisory jobs so he can say he "just doesn't have the time" when the topic comes up, knowing full well that he goes to sleep at night and wakes up in the morning thinking about women's shoes and that nothing, and we mean nothing, will ever compare to feeling he'll get running back and forth to the stock room juggling six different styles in 3 different sizes, working his ass off to make that sale. The sooner he realizes that, the better. He obviously told the MS people about his little-known passion/plan for reason: to make himself accountable. If you see Mack today or next week or the week after, [tell him to go for it.] John Mack To Join KKR As Senior Adviser [Deal Journal]

By Mike Cauldwell (https://www.casascius.com/photos.aspx) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

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