December 9, 2022

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‘I did have a big ego’: John Mack reflects on a life spent on Wall Street

2 min read

John Mack cemented his place in Wall Street folklore during the depths of 2008 financial crisis, when as chief executive of Morgan Stanley he secured a $9bn investment from Japanese bank MUFG.

The cash infusion provided a lifeline for Morgan Stanley and allowed the bank to fend off an alternative rescue plan being pushed by Tim Geithner, then president of the New York Federal Reserve, who wanted Mack to agree to a merger with rival JPMorgan.

“Tell Tim to get fucked,” Mack told his assistant, who was fielding calls from Geithner during the negotiations with MUFG.

Fourteen years later, the 78-year-old is embarking on what feels like a swansong. Last month, he published a memoir, Up Close And All In, to mixed reviews. It charts his journey from a second-generation Lebanese immigrant from Mooresville, North Carolina, to chief executive of one of Wall Street’s biggest investment banks.

The thing that gives Mack’s latest outing an air of finality is the disclosure at the end of the book that his memory is showing early signs of fading. He was recently diagnosed with mild cognitive impairment, which might be the early stages of Alzheimer’s disease.

“I don’t need sympathy,” Mack said in a recent interview with the Financial Times. “But I don’t want to throw people off when I tell them the same thing more than once or twice, which I do.”

He was characteristically dismissive of critics who have poked fun at what they see as a lack of self-awareness in the autobiography. “I gotta be honest with you, I don’t fucking care, all right? You think I care?” he asked. “If people think I have a big ego, I did have a big ego. I don’t care.”

But he was more reflective on the changes that have taken root on Wall Street since the crisis in which he held a starring role, arguing that his successors have moved away from a fixation on short-term profit-taking and embraced a safer financial system.

“The culture of just making money is the wrong…

2022-11-23 00:00:08

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