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Summertime news

What's behind Lehman Brothers' decision to form an executive committee? The news this August that the heads of the major businesses would join chief executive Richard Fuld in a six-member committee came four years after Lehman split from its marriage with American Express Bank. Ostensibly, the team is being set up to formulate strategy.

But why do it now? What strategy does it have to set that demands a new structure? Could it even be a tacit admission that the investment bank suffered from lack of direction before?

Ever since Lehman Brothers' spin-off from American Express in 1994 it has been considered a prime target for takeover; one major bank even commissioned a report on it, leaked to Euromoney and published in March 1996.

The rumours continued, yet Lehman has so far not been caught up in the consolidation fever of the past 18 months. Instead it has concentrated on cutting costs, and has improved its performance substantially.

A senior source at Lehman's New York office says there is no hidden agenda behind the committee. "It was a slow summer" he suggests as a reason for its formation. "It's not really a committee, more of a partnership.

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