Profile: Shigeru 'Sugar' Myojin - As sweet as it comes

David Callaway looks at the post-Travelers future for Salomon's richest trader. Below, Michael Lewis on great characters from the past

When Travelers Group completes its $9bn (pounds 6.3bn) purchase of Salomon later this year, Shigeru "Sugar" Myojin will receive Travelers shares worth $11.4m. But that won't be his biggest payment, even in the last 12 months.

Myojin, a trading legend from the City to Wall Street to Tokyo's Otemachi district, made $31.45m last year, including a $10m bonus and almost $19m in deferred pay-ments for his work as the point man for Salomon's mammoth proprietary trading business.

Now that Salomon will be merged with Travelers' Smith Barney into a global investment banking network, all eyes will be on Myojin to see if he can continue to work his high-wire trading magic under the sober regime of an insurance company.

"The worry people have is that he will be somehow forced to report to a risk-averse chief executive officer who may give him a hard time about some of the positions he wants to take," said Roy Smith, professor of finance at New York University's Stern School of Business. "I'm not so sure this is true. Why would they want to disturb him?"

Myojin, nicknamed "Sugar" by a colleague from Texas who couldn't pronounce "Shigeru", is no stranger to big money. As head of a business that risks millions for Salomon every day, betting on bonds and currencies, precious metals and coffee, he is also used to being in control.

He operates from Salomon's cavernous trading floor next to Victoria Station in London, making split-second decisions on whether to buy a load of German bonds or sell Japanese bond futures, and leads a group of some three dozen Salomon proprietary traders worldwide.

The 48-year-old trader, the last of a long line of super-traders that gave Salomon its cowboy reputation in the 1980s and earned then-chairman, John Gutfreund, the title of "King of Wall Street", almost retired two years ago.

Salomon, reluctant to lose its money machine, offered Myojin the position of vice-chairman and head of its proprietary trading business, its most important. He got a salary of $520,000 and an incentive package that tied his bonus to trading profits he generated, which means extra pay in tens of millions in good years.

For Myojin, there have been lots of good years. In 1991, profits from his trading are said to have accounted for almost half of Salomon's $919m in pre-tax profits. He also had big years in 1989 and 1990 and in the last 12 months has helped Salomon earn about $650m in trading for its own account.

While many big investment banks engage in proprietary trading, Salomon is known as the biggest gambler on the block. It takes extraordinary positions, mostly in bonds and bond futures.

Will it change under the leadership of Travelers' boss, Sandy Weill? Early signs suggest it will be business as usual. Under the new management board, Myojin will share responsibilities for global arbitrage with the old Salomon team, including Costas Kaplanis and Robert Stavis.

Analysts and former employees believe Weill will continue to give Myojin a free hand to risk money on big bets. Indeed, Travelers' deep pockets can cushion the blow from any losses that proprietary trading might develop, losses that historically made Salomon's quarterly earnings figures among the hardest to predict on Wall Street.

"He's the most important person to help Sandy Weill control the risk of proprietary trading," said Michael Holland, head of fund manager Holland & Co, who worked with Myojin at Salomon from 1989 to 1992. "They've got to keep him."

Myojin, dogged by the Japanese press for his wealth during his years with Salomon in Japan, doesn't give interviews - declining to talk even through a Salomon spokesman.

But despite a low profile, his eccentricities are legendary. While heading Salomon's Japanese office in the 1980s, he was known to carry a baseball bat and had a US army helmet on his desk. He rode a bicycle through the trading room and threw a cream pie at an employee.

Described as a slight man prone to outbursts of laughter and sudden mood swings, Myojin exerts strong control over his staff and expects the same sort of commitment to the markets from them as he has. Employees in Japan had to attend tennis weekends with him at Tokyo's fashionable Ariake club or parties at his home in the mountains. Staff prayed with him at a Shinto shrine on the day before quarterly expiration of futures contracts, when there is traditionally heavy trading.

Although the pressure of risking millions of dollars takes its toll on many traders, Myojin's staying power is attributed to his ability to keep a golfer's cool. "He is not someone who ignores risk. But he has an enormous amount of confidence in his ability to make money," Mr Holland said.

Myojin, born in Nagoya, Japan, got his first job in 1973 as a salesman for Yamaichi Securities, where he would call on clients by bicycle around Shizouka, west of Tokyo. After a two-year stint, he moved to London for Yamaichi. He transferred to Salomon in 1979 and returned to Tokyo to run the yen bond desk.

In 1985, the Japanese government allowed futures on Japanese bonds to be traded for the first time. Myojin travelled to New York to research how futures trading worked beforepreparing for the new products.

Myojin decided the futures were overpriced. He sold them and bought the underlying bonds, making enormous profits for Salomon and upsetting established Japanese firms such as Yamaichi and Nomura Securities.

He had intended to retire in 1995 to study Western art, but continued with Salomon and moved to London, where he lives with his wife and two daughters.

As a member of the management committee of the new Salomon Smith Barney, Myojin will be a key player in making the new company work and making sure that Sandy Weill's biggest bet ever - that Salomon and Smith Barney can work together - doesn't become his most disastrous of all.

Life and Style
Small winemakers say the restriction makes it hard to sell overseas
food + drink
Arts and Entertainment
A comedy show alumni who has gone on to be a big star, Jon Stewart
tvRival television sketch shows vie for influential alumni
Arts and Entertainment
Carrie Hope Fletcher
booksFirst video bloggers conquered YouTube. Now they want us to buy their books
News
Clare Balding
peopleClare Balding on how women's football is shaking up sport
PROMOTED VIDEO
Arts and Entertainment
Damien Hirst
artCoalition's anti-culture policy and cuts in local authority spending to blame, says academic
Sport
premier leagueMatch report: Arsenal 1 Man United 2
Arts and Entertainment
Kirk Cameron is begging his Facebook fans to give him positive reviews
film
News
i100
Sport
Jonny May scores for England
rugby unionEngland 28 Samoa 9: Wing scores twice to help England record their first win in six
Life and Style
fashionThe Christmas jumper is in fashion, but should you wear your religion on your sleeve?
News
ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment
Jason goes on a special mission for the queen
tvReview: Everyone loves a CGI Cyclops and the BBC's Saturday night charmer is getting epic
Arts and Entertainment
Jerry Hall (Hand out press photograph provided by jackstanley@theambassadors.com)
theatre
Sport
Tony Bellew (left) and Nathan Cleverly clash at the Echo Arena in Liverpool
boxingLate surge sees Liverpudlian move into world title contention
Voices
Neil Findlay
voicesThe vilification of the potential Scottish Labour leader Neil Findlay shows how one-note politics is today, says DJ Taylor
Life and Style
food + drinkMeat-free recipes and food scandals help one growing sector
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs Money & Business

Reach Volunteering: Trustee – PR& Marketing, Social Care, Commercial skills

Voluntary Only - Expenses Reimbursed: Reach Volunteering: Age Concern Slough a...

Reach Volunteering: Charity Treasurer

Voluntary Only - Expenses Reimbursed: Reach Volunteering: Crossroads Care is s...

SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant - Soho

£20000 - £25000 per annum + OTE £35,000: SThree: We consistently strive to be ...

Ampersand Consulting LLP: Markit EDM (CADIS) Developer

£50000 - £90000 per annum + benefits: Ampersand Consulting LLP: Markit EDM (CA...

Day In a Page

Mau Mau uprising: Kenyans still waiting for justice join class action over Britain's role in the emergency

Kenyans still waiting for justice over Mau Mau uprising

Thousands join class action over Britain's role in the emergency
Isis in Iraq: The trauma of the last six months has overwhelmed the remaining Christians in the country

The last Christians in Iraq

After 2,000 years, a community will try anything – including pretending to convert to Islam – to avoid losing everything, says Patrick Cockburn
Black Friday: Helpful discounts for Christmas shoppers, or cynical marketing by desperate retailers?

Helpful discounts for Christmas shoppers, or cynical marketing by desperate retailers?

Britain braced for Black Friday
Bill Cosby's persona goes from America's dad to date-rape drugs

From America's dad to date-rape drugs

Stories of Bill Cosby's alleged sexual assaults may have circulated widely in Hollywood, but they came as a shock to fans, says Rupert Cornwell
Clare Balding: 'Women's sport is kicking off at last'

Clare Balding: 'Women's sport is kicking off at last'

As fans flock to see England women's Wembley debut against Germany, the TV presenter on an exciting 'sea change'
Oh come, all ye multi-faithful: The Christmas jumper is in fashion, but should you wear your religion on your sleeve?

Oh come, all ye multi-faithful

The Christmas jumper is in fashion, but should you wear your religion on your sleeve?
Dr Charles Heatley: The GP off to do battle in the war against Ebola

The GP off to do battle in the war against Ebola

Dr Charles Heatley on joining the NHS volunteers' team bound for Sierra Leone
Flogging vlogging: First video bloggers conquered YouTube. Now they want us to buy their books

Flogging vlogging

First video bloggers conquered YouTube. Now they want us to buy their books
Saturday Night Live vs The Daily Show: US channels wage comedy star wars

Saturday Night Live vs The Daily Show

US channels wage comedy star wars
When is a wine made in Piedmont not a Piemonte wine? When EU rules make Italian vineyards invisible

When is a wine made in Piedmont not a Piemonte wine?

When EU rules make Italian vineyards invisible
Look what's mushrooming now! Meat-free recipes and food scandals help one growing sector

Look what's mushrooming now!

Meat-free recipes and food scandals help one growing sector
Neil Findlay is more a pink shrimp than a red firebrand

More a pink shrimp than a red firebrand

The vilification of the potential Scottish Labour leader Neil Findlay shows how one-note politics is today, says DJ Taylor
Bill Granger recipes: Tenderstem broccoli omelette; Fried eggs with Mexican-style tomato and chilli sauce; Pan-fried cavolo nero with soft-boiled egg

Oeuf quake

Bill Granger's cracking egg recipes
Terry Venables: Wayne Rooney is roaring again and the world knows that England are back

Terry Venables column

Wayne Rooney is roaring again and the world knows that England are back
Michael Calvin: Abject leadership is allowing football’s age-old sores to fester

Abject leadership is allowing football’s age-old sores to fester

Those at the top are allowing the same issues to go unchallenged, says Michael Calvin