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Banking

Mack builds a new CSFB

It has taken three years to rein in costs and regulatory risks at CSFB. Now, at last, CEO John Mack is looking forward and wants to double profits by the end of 2006. Does the Swiss-American investment bank have what it takes?

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IT WAS AN extraordinary sight. Late last year CSFB put on what it dubbed "karaoke at the close", a charity event for staff in the equity division held in its New York headquarters just after the markets closed. About 400 people turned up to watch their bosses sing. Staff could bid up their value, and contestants could only evade the ordeal by paying triple the bid.

Jim Kreitman and Michael Clark, then co-heads of the equities division, went up as Sonny and Cher, with Clark, who now runs equity prop trading, as Cher. Brady Dougan and Brian Finn, co-presidents of the investment bank, dressed up as the girls from Abba.

But John Mack, CEO of CSFB and co-CEO of Credit Suisse Group, stole the show. Bids reached $25,000; Mack paid the opt-out, but also sang. Wearing a shark's outfit, he went on stage and delivered a song from Bertold Brecht's Threepenny Opera.

He got the first few lines of "Mack the Knife" out pretty well, but started to lose his timing as the whoops and hollers grew louder and louder. Here was their CEO, who had cut costs as soon as he joined in July 2001, poking fun at the nickname that has followed him around, much to his annoyance, for years.

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