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When Goldman Was Huggable

Wednesday, 21 Mar 2012 | 4:38 PM ET
Martin Barraud | OJO Images | Getty Images

Goldman Sachs once set a world record for biggest hug.

The New Yorker blog has dug up the details from a December 2000 Talk of the Town piece.

What happened was that a Goldman vice-president named Maynard Holt decided to attempt to set the world record at the company's annual investment-banking shindig. He reached out to the Guinness World Records folks and got permission from the senior partners.

And then, on the closing day of the conference, it was time to get huggy.

From the New Yorker:

The investment bankers went to work. Four young ones, who had been ordered to put on Teletubby costumes, emerged from the wings and began roaming the tables, to put their colleagues in a huggable mood. Twenty others, “hug police” wearing construction helmets with head lamps, and T-shirts over their ties, fanned out with clipboards to round up recruits. Partner or peon, it didn’t matter. The big hug was for everyone. Those who signed up were given yellow stickers, which read “One Team, One Hug,” and were told to line up along the wall, where they began to form a circle around the ballroom.

Gradually, the circle grew. Teletubbies stood arm in arm with men in suits. [Guinness spokeswoman Jerramy] Fine announced, “I can now certify that this will be the world’s largest hug, if you execute correctly.” On either side of the stage, Guinness’s official requirements for correct hug execution were displayed on giant screens: “At a given signal, each participant should squeeze the person on either side of them, holding the hug for a minimum of ten seconds.” Holt gave the signal. The huggers squeezed. The countdown began. At zero, the song “Lean on Me” came over the sound system, and the ring of eight hundred and ninety-nine bankers swayed and broke.

It was enough, apparently, to set the record.

The Teletubbies thing seems weird and random. The New Yorker blog explains that at the time the "Big Hug" segment was a popular part of the show.

Someone, somewhere, has to have pictures of this. As the kids say on the internet: "Pics or it didn't happen!"

Follow John on Twitter. (Market and financial news, adventures in New York City, plus whatever is on his mind.) You can email him at john.carney@nbcuni.com.

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