The surest sign of an economic downturn: fewer elaborate, lucite deal tombstones are being commissioned.
The New Yorker: Of all the sad Wall Street scenes—Lehman employees shuffling out of their offices in shorts, “reduction in force” victims commiserating over drinks on Stone Street—one of the saddest might be the headquarters of Icon Recognition, a company that makes deal toys, the desktop trophies (sometimes called “deal gifts” or “tombstones”) collected by a lot of finance types to commemorate deals. On an afternoon not long ago, a conference room there had a day-after-Christmas feeling: boxes everywhere, rows of lonely Lucite toys (a cube with 3-D shoes etched inside, a fake bottle of suntan lotion).”This is definitely a tough time,” Stephen Sokoler, the president of the company, said. He’d been up early working the phones: “You call and ask, ‘Is there anyone who’s announced a deal recently or closed a deal? Anyone you’ve heard of?’ ” He added, “It feels like we’re a ship in the middle of a storm. Not only are you in the storm but there’s no visibility as to whether the storm’s gonna clear.”…
Goldman recently sent an e-mail to employees announcing that they would have to start paying for their own deal toys, but Sokoler thinks that such mandates will eventually be relaxed. “Every once in a while, you see rules like that,” he said. Somehow, people have continued to fill their windowsills with souvenir footballs, detachable trucks, and bobblehead C.E.O.s mounted on Lucite pedestals…
There will always be deal toys of some kind, Sokoler predicted (Icon Recognition is already coming up with a pitch to commemorate Bank of America’s acquisition of Merrill), but, lately, more traditional designs have resurfaced—the simple tombstone, for example, with the name of the lead firm on the left. “It’s more in keeping with the mood,” Kerns said. Sokoler wandered over to a miniature statue of the god Apollo, commissioned to celebrate a private-equity deal for Apollo Capital. Apollo was bare-chested, and his foot was planted on the torso of a writhing grizzly bear, which he seemed about to shoot in the face with a tiny bow and arrow. “This was sketched by a banker,” Sokoler said—an analyst at J. P. Morgan. Sokoler pointed out Apollo’s rippling muscles, and the bear’s ears and teeth. “To be honest, I don’t think any other company could make this,” he said. He shrugged. “I think the bear won.”
No word on whether that BofA-Merrill tombstone will be a cocktail napkin.
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