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Interview: Gutfreund shows his hand

In the 1980s, John Gutfreund was the "King of Wall Street". The soberly dressed former municipal bond trader would arrive at work each morning with a reputed readiness to "bite the ass off a bear".

The chairman of Salomon Brothers was also familiar to readers of the social columns of newspapers and magazines. By 1991 Salomon was said to be the world's most profitable corporation per employee. But after a treasury bond rigging scandal Gutfreund resigned in 1991. He felt like a fall guy. His parting words as he left the final meeting were: "Apologies don't mean shit." Eight years on Gutfreund, who turns 70 this year, runs a corporate advisory firm with two assistants. He speaks to Philip Eade from the office above New York's Central Park about his early days on Wall Street, leaving Salomon Brothers and the truth about that hand of liar's poker.

In the 1980s, you were called a "world-class financial celebrity". How did you see yourself?

As a very lucky fellow. I was part of a very good organization and by virtue of that job I got to meet some of the more successful people in financial services and industry in general in different parts of the world and that's a treat. By virtue of my position, a lot of doors were opened to me. That's a nice thing.

Looking back, how do you feel about leaving Salomon Brothers?

I had 38 great years.

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