Alan C. Greenberg, a risk-chasing Wall Street titan who built Bear Stearns into a global investment-banking powerhouse and presided over its collapse as America slid toward a calamitous recession in 2008, died on Friday in Manhattan. He was 86.
The cause was complications of cancer, his son, Theodore, said.
Mr. Greenberg's nickname was "Ace," and he kept a deck of cards on his desk, ready to deal. He was a champion bridge player, a magician who conjured coins with sleight of hand, a showoff who could whiz-bang a yo-yo, an adventurer who played pool with sharks and stalked game in Africa. That buccaneer spirit propelled him over five decades from Bear Stearns' stock room, where he began as a clerk in 1949, to trading floors, where he mastered moneymaking skills, and into the executive suite, where he became chief executive in 1978, chairman in 1985 and chairman of the executive committee in 2001.Along the way, he led Bear Stearns on one of Wall Street's legendary roller-coaster rides, a climb to dizzying heights as one of the country's biggest brokerages, and a breathtaking free-fall into bankruptcy. Stuck with billions in all-but-worthless mortgage securities as its clients made a run on the bank, Bear Stearns was taken over by JPMorgan Chase in a $270 million fire sale sanctioned by the Federal Reserve.