Abigail with attitude: The curious tale of Jes Staley's departure


Abigail Hofman
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In January, we received news that Jes Staley, the former head of JPMorgan’s investment bank, was leaving the firm to join the hedge fund BlueMountain Capital. This story has several interesting aspects.

Commentators are fixated on the fact that BlueMountain, which is run by another JPMorgan alumnus Andrew Feldstein, made substantial profits in 2012 by betting against the trades accumulated by the London Whale.

However, I am more intrigued by the stalling of Staley. In late 2009, when Bill Winters was ousted as co-chief of the investment bank, and Jes stepped into the breach, Staley was serenaded as the new golden boy. Some even talked of him as a successor to group CEO Jamie Dimon.

However, despite producing respectable returns, Staley was himself ousted in July 2012 and replaced by co-heads Michael Cavanagh and Daniel Pinto. Both men are in their 40s and some 10 years younger than Staley, so the change was dressed up as a "generational hand-over".

A mole mutters that Dimon and Staley might have fallen out during the kerfuffle surrounding the Whale losses. Staley was given the title of chairman of the investment bank, which hints at a resting stage for a faithful, but no longer irreplaceable, servant. After all, when you have two chief executives, senior management ranks hardly need further padding. And then began a slightly bizarre recruitment dance conducted in full view of the financial media. CNBC reported that Staley had been approached to lead asset manager Legg Mason. The television network also claimed that Staley had been a candidate to take over from Bob Diamond at Barclays but lost out to Barclays’ head of retail and business banking, Antony Jenkins. Jenkins is British and maybe the board felt Staley might have been an American hire "too far" after Bob Diamond was bundled out of the building burbling repeatedly "I love Barclays." Anyway, it is good to know that Staley has found a new home. I’m not sure we will hear much more from him. Hedgies like to keep a low profile.

And while we are talking about bankers on the move, people are speculating about where Simon Robey, the Morgan Stanley UK deal-maker, will surface once his gardening leave is over. I discussed resourceful Robey’s departure from the US investment bank in my November 2012 column. And I pondered his grandiose quotation to the media: "I will continue to be a passionate advocate for [Morgan Stanley’s] capabilities and values. But 25 years is a long time and I need to challenge myself with change."

A mole whispers that Robey might join forces with former Goldman Sachs banker (and deputy chairman of HSBC) Sir Simon Robertson to form a London-based corporate finance boutique called something mundane like Robertson, Robey. I prefer the more unusual name of "Simon Squared" for the new outfit. "It could work," a source said conspiratorially. "They are different generations, Robertson must be early 70s and Robey is 52." Another source reports: "I heard something different. The revenge of the Anglo Saxons – a group based around David Mayhew (formerly of Cazenove), Alan Parker (CEO of Brunswick) and Simon Robey." So maybe Robey will not set sail into the sunset alone as it seemed when he left Morgan Stanley. Shortly before Euromoney went to press, it was announced that Robey was indeed teaming up with Sir Simon.