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by Derek Loosvelt | July 01, 2008


In the current issue of Vanity Fair, Bryan Burrough, the author of Barbarians at the Gate (which chronicled the takeover of tobacco giant RJR Nabisco) scribes a 16-page piece on what some are now calling the biggest scandal in the history of Wall Street: the fall of Bear Stearns.

Burrough’s article tells many of the tales that have been told before about Bear’s demise, but it also presents some new information, suggesting that Bear was murdered rather than dying of natural credit-crisis causes. The piece, which is bound to become required reading among investment bankers, includes fascinating reproduced conversations between two guys with names out of a Spillane novel—former Bear CEO Jimmy Cayne and JPMorgan top dog Jamie Dimon—as well as between Cayne and U.S. Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson. Burrough also provides perhaps the best description of the scrappy Bear Stearns ever. Here he describes Bear’s former competitors and then “the Bear” itself:

“At Phi Kappa Wall Street, most of the frat boys are instantly recognizable. There’s the big, backslapping Irishman, Merrill Lynch, the humorless grind, Goldman Sachs, and the straitlaced rich kid, Morgan Stanley. And then, off in the corner, wearing its beat-up leather jacket and nursing a cigarette, was the tough-guy loner, scrawny Bear Stearns, who disdained secret handshakes and towel snapping in favor of an extended middle finger toward pretty much everyone. Bear was bridge-and-tunnel and proud of it. Since the days when the Goldmans and Morgans cared mostly about hiring young men from the best families and schools, “the Bear,” as old-timers still call it, cared about one thing and one thing only: making money.”

Now, the question that begs to be answered is, Which actors will land the leading parts in the HBO miniseries?

If likenesses are required, and you take the photo that leads the VF piece of the three most recent Bear CEOs, my recommendations would be Will Ferrell as the laid-back Alan Schwartz, Philip Seymour Hoffman as the bridge-playing and alleged midnight-toker Jimmy Cayne and Joe Pesci as the penny-pinching Alan “Ace” Greenberg. (And if Pesci isn’t available, I’d cast a vote for James Garner, who won a Golden Globe for his roll as RJR Nabisco CEO F. Ross Johnson in the TV miniseries Barbarians at the Gate; Garner is also, of course, the star of the long-running TV series Maverick—a word many had used to describe the personality of the late, great Bear Stearns).

Of course, if you have other ideas on casting, or any other thoughts about Bear’s possible murder, we welcome your comments below.


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