Net Net: Promoting innovation and managing change
Net Net: Promoting innovation and managing change

Morgan Stanley Bids John Mack Farewell

John J. Mack

The event began with Morgan Stanley's current chief executive, James Gorman, asking “Is this the hottest ticket in New York City tonight?”

According to Gorman, invitations to tonight’s event honoring outgoing chairman John Mack were in such demand that people were actually offering to buy them from the firm.

“There is no doubt what John Mack’s legacy will be. He saved Morgan Stanley . Some of us were in the room about 10 feet away when this happened,” Gorman said.

“He told the secretary of the Treasury and the chairman of the Federal Reserve that he would not sell Morgan Stanley for pennies on the dollar,” Gorman continued. “The fact that you are standing here today is proof of this.”

Mack retired as chief executive of Morgan Stanley on January 1, 2010.

Since then he has served as chairman of the board. Mack first joined Morgan Stanley in 1972. He rose to become a board member in 1987 and chief operating officer in 1993.  He left Morgan Stanley in 2001, after a long power struggle with Phil Purcell following the merger with Dean Witter.

Financial Plays & Strategies for 2012

He served as CEO of Credit Suisse First Boston before returning to Morgan Stanley as chief executive in 2005.

He was known affectionately — and, often, not so affectionately — as “Mack the Knife,” allegedly for his penchant for cost cutting.  Others say the nickname came from his sometimes blood-thirsty approach to trading. One colorful tale — that may even be true — from the 1980s has him screaming over the trading floor, “There’s blood in the water. Let’s go kill!”

One of the funnier nicknames I heard a Morgan Stanley guy use was “Lady Mackbeth”—for Shakespeare’s lethal woman who always had blood on her hands.

Mack became one of the defining characters of Wall Street through the past few decades. We’ll raise a glass to him…and maybe even try to sneak into the “Open Forum.”

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