Saturday, July 25, 2009

Street Fighters: The Last 72 Hours of Bear Stearns, the Toughest Firm on Wall Street

Denial. Kate Kelly expanded her 2008 reporting on the fall of Bear Stearns for The Wall Street Journal into a book titled Street Fighters: The Last 72 Hours of Bear Stearns, the Toughest Firm on Wall Street. The hour-by-hour structure of the book increases the intensity of the action Kelly describes. The context she creates by references to earlier times allows the tension to relax periodically. Throughout, Kelly highlights the many ways in which CEO Alan Schwartz and Chairman Jimmy Cayne ignored or denied the gravity of the situation the company was in. By the time reality sank in, there were few options remaining. Kelly dedicates the book to the 14,000 people who worked for Bear Stearns, and those potential readers won’t like a lot of her explanation of what happened. The rapid demise of Bear was surprising at the time, and understandable in the context that Kelly presents. I wanted to learn more about many of the conversations that Kelly referenced as happening, but doesn’t elaborate. While JPMorgan Chase CEO Jamie Dimon seemed to be on the phone constantly about a deal, Kelly doesn’t provide much insight into the details. I wondered a lot about the progression of Dimon’s conversations, especially with Tim Geithner. Nonetheless, Street Fighters provides fast reading about the final hours of a once-successful company, and most readers will find the story captivating.

Rating: Four-star (Highly Recommended)

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