Linked in The Room

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Traders remember the old King of Wall Street.

John-Gutfreund-160

John Gutfreund

A corner of LinkedIn was ablaze with nostalgia over the weekend of February 23/24 as bank industry veterans flocked to read Euromoney's interview from 1979 with John Gutfreund – at the time managing partner of Salomon Brothers – which we published as part of our exploration of our archive in our 50th anniversary year. By the Monday morning nearly 11,000 people had viewed the post.

In the 1979 interview the late Padraic Fallon, then editor of Euromoney, described Gutfreund as the world's most famous trader in probably the world's most famous trading room. And judging by the comments alongside the post in LinkedIn, there were plenty who agreed with that verdict.

Members of the Salomon diaspora were the most effusive. "Those were the days!" wrote one. Another, who went through the training programme there in 1983, described it as a magical environment. 

"They just don't make them like him any more" and "one of the true legends", wrote others of Gutfreund himself. It was a time and a firm that "shaped careers and changed lives", wrote another.

"The smell of John's omnipresent cigar smoke will be ingrained in my mind forever," wrote Peter Lewis, now managing director at Kohesiv and who joined Salomon in 1986. For another the old trading room photos evoked "the musty smell of mouldy carpets and stale cigarettes".

Malcolm Selver, now a managing director at Bramshill Investments, worked at Salomons from 1976 to 1997, sitting to the left of "JG" in equities. "The term 'hear the Room' has been part of my mantra to this day, he wrote. In the Euromoney interview Gutfreund spoke regularly of the buzz of "the Room".

Unmatched

They remember it being tough. "Character-building" popped up a few times. "A rite of passage", said one reader. But "even with its faults… the general experience, culture, people, training, opportunity and motivation were all unmatched," wrote another.

In 1985 Gutfreund was dubbed "The King of Wall Street" by Businessweek. One fixed income staffer from the mid-1980s remembers working alongside Gutfreund and Michael Lewis, who was later to immortalize Gutfreund in the book Liar's Poker, which focused on the firm in the second half of the 1980s, by which time Gutfreund was CEO of Salomon.

David Getzler, now head of North America corporate finance at Societe Generale, summed up thus: "John Gutfreund not only ran by far the best fixed-income firm, he levered that strength to break in and establish Salomon as one of the bulge investment banking firms." Others were more succinct: "Great firm, great people… hubris killed it." 

Another posted a photo of a medal struck when Salomon Brothers Inc was acquired by Citigroup on November 28, 1997. It reads simply: "End of an Era".