While investment banks all around him are losing their heads, Jamie Dimon, the chief executive of JPMorgan Chase, is not only keeping his but is emerging as one of the most successful navigators of the credit crunch.
His dramatic intervention to prop up Bear Stearns and stave off a full-blown banking crisis might be his big-gest coup in a year of coups that has already included co-chairing the summit of world and business leaders in Davos, Switzerland, and persuading former prime minister Tony Blair to sign on as an adviser and ambassador for JPMorgan.
His offer to funnel emergency lending to Bear Stearns for the next 28 days puts him in the best position to feed on the carcass if Bear is broken up and sold piecemeal, an outcome that would give him the opportunity to add much of its prime brokerage business to bulk up JPMorgan's own operations. An outright takeover of Bear is also a possibility, analysts said, though less likely.
The involvement of JPMorgan in the rescue of Bear prompted references to the company's founder – John Pierpoint Morgan – whose organisation and personal funding of a bail-out of the banking system during the panic of 1907 marked a symbolic bottom for a long recession at the start of the last century.
Mr Dimon is no JPMorgan, of course, but as well as an aggressive banker and a savage cost-cutter, he is also a charmer, given to a reassuring candour in speeches and a down-to-earth manner that eschews ostentatious luxury in his private life. The son of second generation Greek immigrants in New York, he emerged as a powerful force on Wall Street as right-hand man to Sandy Weill, the numbers guy to Mr Weill's vision as they created the banking behemoth Citigroup.
Their acrimonious split in 1998 is one of the most gossiped about in Wall Street history. Mr Dimon says he was fired. Rumours at the time said Mr Weill was angry that Mr Dimon had failed to promote his daughter within the firm; Mr Weill's memoirs said Mr Dimon needed to learn to work with other people better.
It didn't take long for Mr Dimon to be back at the pinnacle of Wall Street, becoming president of JPMorgan when it bought Bank One, the firm of which he had become chief executive. Since then, he has been on an aggressive push to turn JPMorgan into the biggest and best banking group in the US.Reuse content