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Tears in the boardroom

Fiercely independent managers grew their research-oriented boutique from little Donaldson, Lufkin & Jenrette into one of the most successful Wall Street firms in the best businesses: equities, high-yield debt, private equity and online broking. For years, DLJ clung to its distinctive culture while owner Axa happily pocketed dividends. Now the French insurer has tossed it to CSFB and no-one knows if the two can work together.

It was hardly a resounding vote of confidence in his decision, but then Joe Roby probably had not expected it to be. There were no cheers, no congratulations, in fact there was very little response at all as Donaldson, Lufkin&Jenrette's chief executive officially informed his staff on August 30 of the sale of the bank to a rival, Credit Suisse First Boston. Some, of course, already knew. Senior managers had been told of the probability of the deal two weeks beforehand. Of the rest, most were stunned, and many are still scratching their heads to work out why DLJ is disappearing into the Swiss-owned investment bank. Many say that they thought there was much DLJ still could have achieved as an independent investment bank. "He said that he simply didn't want DLJ to be the last one left on the street," says one DLJer.

The venue Roby chose to address his staff was the canteen, a small irony itself. It is a part of the office on Park Avenue that the CEO, his fellow senior executives, and their predecessors are perhaps more acquainted with than their counterparts at other Wall Street investment banks. DLJ's most senior executives would all regularly eat there, mixing with the traders and deal-doers.

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