Thursday, March 27, 2008

The Chairman of Bear Sells

Only a year ago James E. Cayne’s stake in Bear Stearns was worth more than $1 billion. But on Thursday, Mr. Cayne, the chairman of Bear, disclosed that he had sold all of his shares in the troubled investment bank this week for just $61 million.

And for Mr. Cayne, the liquidation evokes a deep sense of loss. It represents a humiliating capitulation for a brash executive who, with his ever-present cigar, suspender-snapping ways and Friday golf outings in the summer, epitomized the classic, if outdated, picture of the Wall Street chieftain.

In the past weeks, together with his wife, Patricia Cayne, who is a student of Jewish religious traditions, Mr. Cayne has spent considerable time searching for comparable events in religious history to see what lessons can be learned from the collapse of his firm, said a person who has spoken to him recently.

While he has not yet moved into his new apartment at the Plaza, which he bought for about $26 million this month, people who have spoken with him say he still has plans to do so, as soon as he sells his current residence on Park Avenue.

Mr. Cayne, unlike many lower-level Bear executives who had large portions of their net worth tied up in stock, also had the benefit of receiving large portions of his yearly compensation in cash. So, he has certainly accumulated enough to live out his retirement years in comfort.


The horror of it all, having to live out your retirement years in a $26 Million dollar apartment. I wonder how much he will think of the millions who are losing a large portion of their retirement both in investments and home equity losses, just so he and his whiz kids could make huge risks with leveraged funds, so he could have bragging rights at those golf outings. Who is responsible for transparent disclosures of the companies financial status to the share holders? Perhaps the chairman? How can you explain stock selling early last year at $171, now at $11.23, with $30 Billion of taxpayer guarantees to limit liabilities! Without seriously questioning the transparency and accuracy of the company books.