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John Gutfreund

Name  John Gutfreund
Role  Businessman
Education  Oberlin College

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John Halle Gutfreund (14 September 1929 – 9 March 2016) was an American banker, businessman and investor. He was the CEO of Salomon Brothers Inc, an investment bank that gained notoriety in the 1980s. Gutfreund turned Salomon Brothers from a private partnership into a publicly traded corporation which started a trend in Wall Street for investment companies to go public. He became an icon for the excess that defined the 1980s culture in America. In 1985, Business Week gave him the nickname "King of Wall Street".

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Early life and education

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Gutfreund grew up in a Jewish family in Scarsdale, a suburb of New York City. His father, Manuel Gutfreund, was the owner of a prosperous trucking company. He attended the Lawrenceville School. In 1951, Gutfreund graduated from Oberlin College in Ohio with a degree in English. He considered teaching literature but instead joined the Army. In 1953, he was discharged. His father belonged to the Century Country Club in Purchase, New York (which was at the time a center for the German Jewish establishment) where he often golfed with William (Billy) Salomon, the son of Percy Salomon, one of the three founding brothers of Salomon Brothers. At Billy Salomon's invitation, the young Gutfreund joined Salomon Brothers as a trainee in the statistical department.


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After several months, Gutfreund became a clerk in the municipal bond department, eventually becoming a trader. He rose quickly through the company and became a full partner at the age of thirty four. In 1978, Billy Salomon named Gutfreund to succeed him as head of the firm, becoming the highest paid Wall Street executive at the time. Besides his executive office on the 43rd floor of One New York Plaza, Gutfreund frequently occupied a two-person desk at the head of the massive, double-decker 41st floor fixed income trading floor.

John Gutfreund How Fortune Covered the Rise and Fall of the King of Wall Street

When Gutfreund was CEO of Salomon Brothers, a major scandal took place regarding the way Treasury bond trading was done by Salomon. Paul Mozer, head of the Government Bond desk, was submitting bids in excess of what was allowed by the Treasury rules. When this was discovered and brought to the attention of Gutfreund, he did not immediately suspend Mr. Mozer. The exposure of Mr. Mozer's repeated violations of U.S. government bond auction rules resulted in a significant scandal during which regulators and some politicians called on the firm to be stripped of its Primary Dealer status. This action would have threatened the survival of the firm, then the largest participant in the U.S. government and mortgage bond trading markets. Warren Buffett, who through Berkshire Hathaway had recently acquired a $900 million preferred equity position in Salomon, actively intervened to protect his investment, including briefly serving as CEO of Salomon Brothers. As a result of the scandal, Gutfreund and other senior managers of Salomon were forced to resign in 1991.

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From January 2002, Gutfreund was Senior Managing Director and Executive Committee Member of the investment bank C.E. Unterberg, Towbin. He was also President of Gutfreund & Company, a New York-based financial consulting firm that specialized in advising corporations and financial institutions in the US, Europe and Asia.


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Gutfreund was featured prominently in the 1989 book Liar's Poker by Michael Lewis, a former employee of Salomon. Gutfreund would later tell Lewis that "Your fucking book destroyed my career, and it made yours."

The UJA-Federation of New York honored him for his charitable activities and contributions.

Personal life

Gutfreund was married twice:

  • In 1958, he married Jewish American Joyce Low, the daughter of a partner at Bear Stearns. They had three sons. Their names are Nick (b.1959), Josh (b.1961), and Owen (b.1963).
  • In 1981, he married flight attendant Susan Penn (maiden name Kaposta) (b. 1946), the daughter of a Hungarian American, US Air Force pilot father and a Spanish American mother. They had one child, John Peter (b. 1985).
  • Gutfreund died on 9 March 2016, aged 86.


    John Gutfreund Wikipedia

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