It was perhaps one of the most emotionally charged meetings ever attended by Wall Street's finest. Just a few days after JPMorgan Chase had made its initial offer to acquire Bear Stearns for $2-a-share, some 400 Bear Senior Managing Directors congregated at the firm's New York HQ building to be briefed on the takeover.
JPMorgan Chase CEO Jamie Dimon is thought to have been advised to keep away as Bear's security staff just couldn't guarantee his safety. But Dimon was determined to show up and win over the minds, if not the hearts, of the seasoned Bear professionals who greeted him with a collective frosty stare.
The meeting was being webcast to all Bear staff via the firm's intranet. Dimon was at his best - serious yet sympathetic, supportive yet determined and reassuring yet realistic. Accompanying Dimon up front were Bear CEO Alan Schwartz and Steven Black and William Winters, the co-heads of JPMorgan's investment banking division. The atmosphere was charged with emotion, as many present had lost most of their net worth and faced the prospect of an uncertain future. Even worse, however, these (mostly) men had lost face - the firm they loved had fallen without much of a fight. The once feisty Bear Stearns had expired with a whimper not a bang.
The Q&A session kicked off, and Dimon soon referred to the JPMorgan takeover as a 'shotgun wedding'. Out from the crowd came the firm, if emotional, lone voice of a long time Bear executive: 'Yes it was a shotgun wedding, but it was a shotgun wedding to a rapist. OK, so the girl was lying naked in the street, but you went ahead and did it anyway'. The response was a resounding silence, which seemed to last an eternity. After perhaps 30 seconds, the meeting moved on, the anguished Bear executive's statement ignored.
Several days later, Dimon upped his firm's offer for Bear to $10-a-share. Many felt that he had no need to do this - Bear's shareholders had no real alternative to a JPMorgan rescue, despite talk of other bidders on the horizon. Some say that Dimon was affected by that meeting with Bear executives more than he let on. They claim that it was in response to the raw emotions he witnessed that day that he tried to reach out to Bear staff and raised his offer price (despite saying at the same meeting that he had no intention of doing so).
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