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Bear Stearns CEO May Remain; Other Layoffs Beginning

Bear Stearns Chief Executive Alan Schwartz, forced to sell the hobbled investment bank to JPMorgan Chase in his eleventh week on the job, has been invited to stay on as a senior dealmaker, a person familiar with the situation said.

Bear Stearns
Jin Lee
Bear Stearns

Meanwhile, CNBC has learned that broad Bear Stearns layoffs are set to commence later today or Tuesday, likely resulting in the eventual elimination of at least half of Bear Stearns' workforce.

Formal employment talks with Schwartz have yet to begin, and it is possible that Schwartz may leave the bank, the source said, adding that Schwartz wants to postpone talks on his own plans until more of Bear's 14,000 employees learn their fates, amid speculation that up to half of them could lose their jobs.

Schwartz would likely stay on as a nonexecutive "rainmaker," holding a vice chairman title and charged with generating business from important clients. In that mold, he would resemble someone like JPMorgan Vice Chairman James Lee, one of Wall Street's best known arrangers of bank loan financing.

Schwartz is currently advising software giant Microsoft on its hostile takeover offer for Yahoo. He has also represented corporate chiefs at Time Warner and Disney on mergers and other high-profile deals. Schwartz could not be reached immediately for comment.

Nearly a month after its shotgun wedding with Bear , JPMorgan executives continue to learn more about what they will fully acquire by June.

Ten days ago, JPMorgan announced the upper tier of investment bank management, with just five Bear executives out of 26 making the cut.

This week, the banks' executives will announce the next round of investment bank management at the investment bank division and continue to review businesses to find areas of overlap.

JPMorgan, which declined to comment on Schwartz, has said it has not yet determined total job cuts.

Schwartz was named Bear CEO in January after long-time chief James "Jimmy" Cayne stepped down to become chairman after presiding over heavy subprime mortgage losses last year. The already weakened bank was brought to its knees last month as clients drained its cash balances, prompting the Federal Reserve to intervene.

As part of that rescue, JPMorgan agreed to acquire Bear for $2 a share, though later raised the bid to $10 a share. The deal has been hailed as a home run for JPMorgan, which picked up valuable businesses and assets on the cheap and can wring out significant cost savings.

Layoffs Begin

Front-office personnel—bankers, traders and others—will be the first to learn their fate as part of layoffs that begin Monday or Tuesday, sources inside Bear Stearns told CNBC Monday. Pink slips will go out elsewhere in the firm over the course of the week.

By the end of the week, JPMorgan hopes to have informed at least 3,000 of what the bank considers major Bear Stearns front-office employees of whether they are staying or going. Bear Stearns employs about 4,500 people in its investment bank and 1,500 in asset management.

Back office personnel—about 5,000 technical and opertions jobs and 2,000 secretaries—are expected to learn of their fate after front-office workers.