Wednesday, July 23, 2014

My Salomon Brothers Blog Start

An Associated Press article from 1995 describes a low point in the history of Salomon Brothers following a government-bond trading scandal in 1991, which forced out John Gutfreund as chairman, along with several others below him, meanwhile forcing the largest single shareholder,Warren Buffett, to step in temporary to try and salvage his asset. The reorganization caused many departure in a long string of such defections by senior management, was the end result of the firm's damaged reputation, and the diminished prospects for year-end bonus checks

Although is is noteworthy when the "powerful head" of "proprietary trading" for one of the world's largest financial firms makes an "unexpected" exit, it's never actually explained why he left. So if by "powerful" it's meant the department the departed led was profitable, even in the face of the "first-ever annual loss of $399 million last year," it would account for the expressions of disappointment from the anonymous "top management" who are the sources for the news.

Public relations, and damage control are a natural in situations such as this, but for financial firms like Salomon Brothers, spin was an art form practiced every day. In this way, the deft use of a verb like "shakeup," could be blamed, instead of he quit or was fired, when replacing the forty-two-year old Dennis J. Keegan, with the "legendary Salomon bond trader," Shigeru Myojin, who at forty-five was snatched away from his impending retirement from Salomon's Tokyo office, to take on a new title, in a new city, while he went on making trades for the firm's benefit.

One particularly revealing piece of information in the article answers the question why Myojin was considered so legendary in his career:
Myojin has been a high-flying Salomon bond trader based in Tokyo who in some years earned as much as half of Salomon Bros.' total pretax profits. Earlier this year, he said he planned to retire in the fall.

At the time of the scandal in 2004, when Japan forced Salomon's private banking business to leave the country for unethical practices (charges which led Deryck Maughan to resign the company) no journalist mentioned that published nine years before was the fact that enormous, disproportional profits were being generated by a single bond trader there named Myojin. The press just barely alluded to a cause of Salomon's downfall being allegations of involvement in criminal money laundering---let alone signs it had been going on for at least a decade. For Myojin to stay his retirement, move to London, and attempt to replicate proprietary trading profits seems far-fetched, even for a miracle bond trader. Isn't it more likely


June 24, 1995, Los Angeles Times / Associated Press, Salomon's Trading Chief Resigns Post: Wall Street: Dennis Keegan's leaving marks the highest-level departure yet at the troubled investment bank,

NEW YORK — The powerful head of trading at Salomon Bros. Inc. resigned Friday in the most senior-level departure yet to recently hit the defection-plagued investment bank.

In the unexpected shake-up, Salomon said it replaced Dennis J. Keegan, 42, with Shigeru Myojin, 45, a legendary Salomon bond trader who decided to forgo retirement to fill the opening as head of proprietary trading.

While top Salomon management was said to be disappointed with Keegan's departure, they saw Myojin's decision against retirement as a victory amid the recent defections, a source close to the firm said on condition of anonymity.

Myojin has been a high-flying Salomon bond trader based in Tokyo who in some years earned as much as half of Salomon Bros.' total pretax profits. Earlier this year, he said he planned to retire in the fall.

Myojin, who was chairman of Salomon's Asia unit, becomes Salomon's vice chairman and will run proprietary trading, in which Salomon plays the markets with its own money for potential profit, out of London instead of New York.

Salomon Inc., parent of the Salomon Bros. investment bank, one of Wall Street's biggest bond traders, has been shaken by huge losses and a controversial pay plan that triggered the resignations of some of its most talented investment bankers, traders and other staff.

The pay plan potentially would have sharply cut bonuses for top-earning professionals. But Salomon scrapped the plan earlier this month following the defections that included investment banking chief Richard J. Barrett and director of research Martin L. Leibowitz.

Salomon said through a spokesman that Keegan resigned for personal reasons, but the firm declined to elaborate. His employment plans were not clear and a telephone message left with his office was not returned. Observers said he was respected and liked by many of his co-workers.

Salomon apparently has begun to recuperate from a first-ever annual loss of $399 million last year. [1944] Profit rose 23% in the first quarter of 1995 as strong results in proprietary trading offset losses in investing services for clients.

"Dennis has made a very important contribution to our business, both in London and as head of proprietary trading," Salomon Chairman and Chief Executive Deryck C. Maughan said in a brief statement.

Still, Salomon has come under pressure from stockholders for its unusually heavy reliance on proprietary trading, which has led to big losses as well as huge profits in the past. Salomon's second-quarter earnings report is due out next month.

Salomon's biggest stockholder is Berkshire Hathaway Inc., the Omaha firm largely owned by multibillionaire investor Warren Buffett.

October 29, 2001, The New York Observer, Deryck Maughan and Other Citigroup Hopefuls Await Former Treasury Secretary's Signal Rubin's Cube, by Landon Thomas, Jr.

There is a funny little ritual that senior Citigroup Inc. executives go through these days when they introduce their colleague Robert Rubin, the former U. S. Treasury Secretary. They'll start with an insider's crack about his time at a "tiny little firm called Goldman." They'll finish with hosannas.

So it went on Oct. 17, when Citigroup vice chairman Deryck Maughan stepped up to the podium in the Salomon Smith Barney auditorium at 388 Greenwich Street, ready to introduce Citigroup's resident pop icon. A packed house of clients and Japanese investors (the event was co-hosted by the Japan Society) sat rapt, waiting for the show to begin.

"Now, if I don't do this right, I have to answer to the chairman of Citigroup's executive committee, so I've got a particularly effusive introduction prepared," said Mr. Maughan, his British accent smoothed out by the 10-plus years he's spent in Manhattan boardrooms.

Soon came the Goldman dig: "As to Bob, he is best known for his role at Citigroup, though there was a time that he was a managing partner at a smaller firm called Goldman Sachs, where we first met."

Then came the acclaim: "Bob has served his country in an extraordinary fashion, a role that President Clinton acknowledged when he awarded him the Medal of Freedom."

As usual, Mr. Rubin responded with a wry crack: "That's the whole intro? I'd hardly call that effusive--more in the neighborhood of adequate, I'd say."

Lately, this ritual has begun to take on more meaning. Mr. Rubin is in a position of great influence at Citigroup, sitting at the right hand of Sandy Weill, the chairman and chief executive. Insiders are saying, if he doesn't take the job himself, he'll be instrumental in selecting the successor to the 68-year-old Mr. Weill when Mr. Weill chooses to step down.

The circle of possible successors has been shrinking rapidly, but the contenders are believed to include Mr. Maughan; Mike Carpenter, chairman and chief executive of Salomon Smith Barney; and Victor Menezes, the Citibank chairman responsible for emerging markets.

A number of Mr. Weill's would-be successors have already departed Citigroup, including Jamie Dimon, his protege, forced out in November 1998; Robert Lipp, who headed consumer operations and remains a board member; and Joseph Plumeri, a 20-year friend and associate of Mr. Weill's.

There was also Jay Fishman, Citigroup's chief operating officer and former chairman of the Travelers Group, the conglomerate's insurance subsidiary, who announced his departure to a Minnesota-based insurance company on Oct. 11--removing another contender from the short list.

Citigroup's official position on the topic of Mr. Weill's succession is that he's not ready to leave yet and, when he does, it's an issue for the board of directors to decide. A spokesman declined comment and did not make Mr. Weill, Mr. Rubin or Mr. Maughan available for interviews.

But according to others familiar with the internal workings of Citigroup, the succession appears more and more to be an issue that Mr. Rubin may help decide--either by tipping his hand toward a candidate, or by pleasing the board of directors and Mr. Weill and accepting the position himself.

Road Show

These days, Mr. Rubin can often be found on the stump for Citigroup, the firm that gave him a home--won him, actually--after he departed his cabinet position and Washington, D.C.

Mr. Rubin will usually speak for 30 minutes, being careful to say very little of note. He'll mention the federal surplus, urging that the pot of money he helped build up under President Clinton be preserved. He'll admonish against excessive tax cuts, offering the opinion that this is not the way to go.

As to the future--well, it looks cloudy. "Before Sept. 11, our economy was faced with many economic imbalances: overinvestment by businesses, high levels of consumer debt and, until recently, the high level of the stock market," Mr. Rubin noted on Oct. 17. "The events of Sept. 11 have added to all this. In my view, the likelihood of a considerable period of economic uncertainty has increased."

He was the master, as usual, of self-deprecation, prefacing many of his comments with "I'm no expert" or "There are others who know much more than me." In place of specifics--"If you could just tell us, Mr. Rubin, what you are investing in these days," cooed CNBC anchor Consuelo Mack, who was moderating the session--Mr. Rubin merely offered that smile.

The low-key Rubin charm was, however, lapped up by the audience of Japanese investors and clients. And they are not alone. Everyone, it seems, from Republican Senators to Treasury Secretary Paul O'Neill to Federal Reserve chairman Alan Greenspan--to say nothing of those on Mr. Weill's short list--wants to bask in the warmth of his still-very-considerable glow.

But around Citigroup, it's more than his easy charm or even his title: chairman of the executive committee of the Citigroup board. It's Mr. Rubin's proximity to Mr. Weill in the power structure (he is the second member of the office of the chairman, Citigroup co-chief executive John Reed having been the third until he was forced out by Mr. Weill in February 2000), as well as his physical proximity (his corner office abuts Mr. Weill's at Citigroup's midtown headquarters).

And it's also his apparent closeness to Mr. Weill. Mr. Rubin has emerged as the Citigroup C.E.O.'s alter ego, his embodiment of the perfect Wall Street man--a throwback, perhaps, to an old-line, clubbier type of banker that Mr. Weill seems to admire. Unlike Mr. Weill, Mr. Rubin conquered the Street from inside the boardroom--relying on his suavity, his trader's acumen and those perfect grace notes. And he's here to stay, searching now for an apartment, as he mentioned in his speech.

Handing over the reins of Citigroup to him would be the perfect capstone to Mr. Weill's career. But the beauty of Bob Rubin is that he professes no interest in the position. It's why he's climbed to such heights: He has mastered the art, rare in banking and politics, of hiding the rawness of one's ambition. He became Treasury Secretary by seeming not to want it; now his almost blase disregard for the Citigroup post makes Mr. Weill and his board all the more desperate to give it to him. Meanwhile, those who really want it seem positively shrink-wrapped as they fight for it.

So far, Mr. Weill has yet to show his hand, and he seems in no hurry to do so--indeed, he announced that no one would replace Mr. Fishman in his Citigroup corporate position. And while Mr. Weill has said that he hopes to appoint a successor by 2002, nothing has been formalized. The board itself--stacked with friends and supporters of Mr. Weill, and more than happy with the stock's performance under his leadership--seems ready to defer to him on the issue.

Meanwhile, it's anybody's race--and for the moment, at least, Mr. Maughan, 53, is putting his best foot forward. In appearance, he's as smooth as a banker comes: tall and strapping, his suit always the darkest of blues, his silvery coif always very well maintained.

His rise to the top has been an unorthodox one. Ten years ago, he was an obscure managing director for Salomon Brothers, working out of the firm's Tokyo offices. He hit the ground at Salomon in 1983 as a bond salesman, having worked for 10 years before that in London at the British Treasury.

When Salomon chairman and chief executive John Gutfreund was forced out in 1991 because of the Treasury-note auction scandal, then-shareholder Warren Buffet needed a fresh new face, one free of the old take-no-prisoners Salomon taint. After a 10-minute interview, he selected the British-born Mr. Maughan to reinvent the disgraced firm.

It was a difficult task, and Mr. Maughan made enemies in the process as he steered Salomon away from its ballsy, bond-trading roots to the more disciplined, broad-based and less controversial firm that Mr. Buffet wanted it to be. In 1997, Mr. Maughan smartly got Mr. Weill, then the chairman of Travelers--whom he knew from their directorships for Carnegie Hall--to buy his firm for $9 billion.

At the time, the deal was hailed as another Sandy Weill stroke of genius: 1.7 times book for Salomon Brothers and its swank offices in London and Japan. Mr. Weill had always wanted to go global; now he'd be doing it on the cheap.

Then came the Asian crisis and $395 million worth of global bond-trading losses. Ooops. In November 1998, the long knives came out. Mr. Dimon--who together with Mr. Maughan had been co-chief of Citigroup's investment-banking operations under the Salomon Smith Barney rubric--was ousted, and Mr. Maughan was bumped upstairs and given the vaguest of briefs: advising Citigroup on strategy.

Mr. Maughan is, however, a notorious cultivator of powerful friendships. Charming Mr. Buffet had firmly installed him at the top at Salomon, and Mr. Maughan seemed bent upon doing the same with Mr. Weill. He took over responsibility for Citigroup's Internet strategy after Mr. Reed was forced out in 2000 and was given mergers and acquisitions as well--a nice charge to have when working for the acquisitive Mr. Weill. He is also a man about town, still serving on the Carnegie board with Mr. Weill, as well as in directorships at the Lincoln Center Theater and Mt. Sinai Hospital.

Now, with Citigroup on the prowl for more acquisitions and increasing emphasis being placed on its international operations, could it be that Mr. Maughan's ship is finally docking?

International Links

"There is no question he is on the short list," says Michael Holland, a money manager and former Salomon Brothers colleague of Mr. Maughan's. "The stars surrounding Sandy Weill always wax and wane. Whenever he decides to exit stage right, whomever's most luminescent will be the next C.E.O. In Deryck's case, it is his international background that is very big in his favor. And I would not underestimate the importance of the Deryck Maughan schmooze factor. His ability to forge the important corporate relationships has always been nonpareil. He identifies them, homes in on them and makes them."

So Mr. Maughan was surely beaming when Mr. Rubin, during his Q&A with the audience on Oct. 17, talked a bit about Citigroup and its mergers-and-acquisitions activities. "We need to take the long view. There is no question that we would be receptive to acquisitions in strategic emerging markets at prices deemed appropriate to Citigroup," Mr. Rubin said. Then he added, with a nod of his head to Mr. Maughan, sitting in the front row: "But you should ask Deryck. He is in charge of M&A, amongst other things at Citigroup."

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