April 2, 2009 / 6:01 AM / 10 years ago

Business Books: How Dimon dodged crisis to lead Wall Street

NEW YORK, April 2 (Reuters) - JPMorgan Chase & Co’s Jamie Dimon is the Wall Street chief executive who has best survived the credit crunch that put paid to the careers of several of his peers.

Is this success due to luck, innate talent or is it a product of Queens, New York-born Dimon’s rigorous work ethic?

In “The House of Dimon,” (Wiley, $24.95) former journalist Patricia Crisafulli tries to answer this question by assessing the career of the hard-working man of the moment who really does not want the attention.

Through the author’s interviews with Dimon, his friends and colleagues, the reader gleans an image of a straight-talking, intelligent CEO with a knack for savvy deal making, attention for detail — and a humble streak.

“The pedestal is a terrible place to be,” Crisafulli quotes Dimon telling CNBC in December. “I almost want to get knocked off the pedestal so I don’t have to hear this anymore,” he added.

After all, Dimon — for all his relative youthfulness at just 53 — is not a banking greenhorn unfamiliar with failure.

The book tracks Dimon’s rise to co-CEO of Salomon Smith Barney before he was fired by his long-time mentor, Wall Street veteran Sandy Weill, and his comeback by orchestrating Chicago-based Bank One’s sale to JPMorgan in 2004.


Dimon has led JPMorgan through two of the financial crisis’ landmark events: acquiring troubled investment bank Bear Stearns Cos and snapping up the assets of failed U.S. thrift Washington Mutual, without the bank being overwhelmed by the problem assets it acquired.

So how did Dimon shepherd JPMorgan through the crisis that ended Bear Stearns Cos and Lehman Brothers?

“Jamie Dimon works at being a leader,” Crisafulli writes.

Like other chief executives, Dimon sets high standards for himself and his employees and he demands they are met.

If he travels to offices outside of New York, he makes the effort to meet staff and talk to them. He holds weekly meetings with his operating committee and during his 80-hour weeks he tries to make time to meet with as many people as possible.

Dimon carries everywhere a 8 1/2 x 11 inch sheet on which he writes lists of things to do, things to check up on, things to remember and which he systematically crosses off, Crisafulli says.

He is also supremely confident and unafraid to speak his mind.

Steve Burke, president of Comcast Cable, who has known Dimon since business school, tells Crisafulli a story about Dimon in his first month suggesting to a teacher that the teacher had made a mistake analyzing a business situation. “Everybody could see that this guy was one of a kind,” Burke said.

Beyond being a by-the-book, Harvard Business School-educated manager, the author recounts anecdotes from colleagues and friends, who say Dimon is as intensely dedicated to his wife and three daughters as he is to his work.

He also talks constantly to employees about “doing the right thing.” It was this principle, rather than snapping up a bargain, that led him to buy Bear Stearns, she writes. (Reporting by Elinor Comlay; Editing by Eddie Evans)

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