President Obama may be calling bankers “fat cats” recently, but there’s at least one person on Wall Street who he has a big soft spot for.
JPMorgan Chase CEO Jamie Dimon’s favoured status in Washington is no secret. His name has been floated as the next Treasury Secretary; he argues against “too big to fail” financial institutions as part of financial reform; and JPMorgan repaid its bailout billions earlier than most. His bank even seems to have dodged the sub-prime bullet.
Heck, Dimon flew to the White House on a private jet this week and didn’t catch any flack.
But how did a brash banker who made $8.5 million the same year his firm took $25 billion in bailouts gain national prominence and a sterling reputation? And during a crisis that claimed the careers or tarnished the reputations of most of his peers?
It’s been quite journey. From being born into a family of bankers to excelling at Harvard Business School to a meteoric rise — and ultimate split — with mentor Sandy Weill at what would become Citigroup, Jamie Dimon has enjoyed stunning success in his career, if not using the most conventional Wall Street track.
Jamie's parents Ted and Themis Dimon pictured here in 1962. Ted is a stockbroker at Shearson Hammill in New York City, the same firm as his father (Jamie's grandfather), Panos Papademetriou, a Greek immigrant, according to Last Man Standing
Themis is also the child of Greek immigrants.
Image: Last Man Standing
Dimon goes to public school -- PS 69 -- in Jackson Heights, Queens from kindergarten to fifth grade after his family moves to the neighbourhood, according to Last Man Standing.
The family later moves to Park Avenue on Manhattans' exclusive upper east side.
Image: Dimon with the family sheltie, Chippy, from Last Man Standing
Dimon attends Browning, a private, all-boys New York City high school. Dimon plays varsity soccer, basketball and baseball; one of his nicknames is 'Mad Dog,' according to Last Man Standing.
Dimon is also reportedly a ladies man. 'In senior year, he majored in his girlfriend,' says a friend in Last Man Standing.
On a recent evening trip to the Upper East Side with some JPM collegues, Dimon enthusiastically pointed out of the window at the car to his old school.
Image: Last Man Standing
Dimon's parents become close socially with Joan and Sandy Weill through business involving both men.
Dimon leverages a thesis he wrote about a business deal involving his father and Weill into a summer job at Hayden Stone, then the financier's acquisition vehicle, according to Last Man Standing.
Dimon begins Harvard Business School in 1980 in the same class as Jeff Immelt of GE and hedge fund managers Seth Klarman and Steven Mandel, according to Last Man Standing.
Dimon also meets his future wife in the program, Judy Kent.
Says Jeff Immelt of the meeting: 'Judy was by far the best-looking, sexiest, and smartest girl in the class, and Jamie got to her first. That's about it,' according to Last Man Standing.
The couple now have three daughters together.
Image: Dimon and Kent at HBS, from Last Man Standing
Dimon and Weill leave American Express together to run Commercial Credit, a Baltimore-based sub-prime lender. Together, they build it into the Citigroup empire.
As Duff McDonald summarizes in New York:
'Virtually by themselves, he and Dimon started over from the bottom, commandeering a third-tier Baltimore lending outfit called Commercial Credit. From there, like banking marauders, they pulled off an audacious string of acquisitions that culminated in the takeover of Citicorp. For a decade and a half, side by side, they built an empire, the world's first financial supermarket.'
Image: Last Man Standing
Commercial Credit Group, 1986--1989, executive vice president and CFO; 1989--1991, president and CFO; Primerica Corporation, 1991--1993, president and CFO; Smith Barney, 1990--1993, chief administrative officer; 1993--1995, COO; 1996--1997, chairman and CEO; Salomon Smith Barney Holdings, 1997--1998, co-chairman and co-CEO; Citigroup, 1998, president.
Image: Last Man Standing
After growing hostility between Dimon and Weill, Dimon is fired from Citigroup in November 1998.
Once seen as the obvious successor to his mentor, Dimon and Weill begin butting heads, in particular about Dimon's lack of power at the newly formed Citigroup, when travellers' merged with Citicorp, according to Last Man Standing.
Bad blood also arises because of professional tensions between Dimon and Weill's daughter, Jessica Bibliowicz, then both at travellers', according to BusinessWeek. Both leave.
Dimons next gig comes as CEO of Bank One, beginning in March 2000.
In four years at Bank One, Dimon doubles the value of the company and makes it a 'very attractive acquisition target,' according to Duff McDonald in New York.
Dimon persuades JPMorgan Chase CEO chief William Harrison (pictured here) to purchase Bank One for $58 billion, making shareholders very happy.
Perhaps his greatest triumph, Dimon helps JPMorgan dodge the subprime bullet.
As Fortune's Shawn Tully put it: 'Dimon and his team are on top today because they took a daring stance at the height of the credit bubble. J.P. Morgan mostly exited the business of securitizing subprime mortgages when it was still booming, shunning now notorious instruments such as SIVs (structured investment vehicles) and CDOs (collateralized debt obligations).'
Thanks to that and other sharp moves, Dimon and JPMorgan weather the financial crisis better than any other large bank.
The Ben Bernanke-brokered Bear Stearns firesale to JPMorgan -- initially at just $2 a share -- solidified the bank and its CEO place on top a radically-changed Wall Street.
Dimon adds to JPMorgan's dominant banking status by aquiring troubled bank Washington Mutual, the country's largest savings and loan.
Regulators broker the sale of WaMu for $1.9 billion, which gives JPMorgan more coveted retail branches nationwide and makes it the biggest bank in America.
JPMorgan repays its $25 billion in TARP bailout money early in June 2009, earning kudos.
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A Democratic-donor, Dimon's strong post-financial crisis reputation attacts national attention.
Dimon is Obama's favourite banker and one of Wall Street's only credible voices in Washington. He argues against 'too big to fail' financial institutions and supports many of Washington's efforts.
'If some unforeseen circumstance should put this firm at risk of collapse, I believe we should be allowed to fail,' Dimon wrote in The Washington Post this November. 'Global economic growth requires the services of big financial firms. It also requires that big financial firms be allowed to fail.'
Dimon's name is floated as a potential successor to Timothy Geithner as Treasury Secretary.
Adding to the speculation, he appoints Jes Staley, head of JPMorgan's asset management group, to become head of the investment banking unit. That's read as putting Staley in direct line of succession to run the bank after Dimon.
So what's next for Dimon?
While he is only 53 years old, Dimon does not want to run the bank until his grave. In fact, some close to him have said that Dimon's exit might come sooner than expected by outsiders. He's a very wealthy man who currently enjoys perhaps the best reputation of any CEO in America.
Dimon's wife told Last Man Standing author McDonald that Dimon fantasizes about opening his own restaurant and turning himself into Sam Malone of Cheers. Dimon says one thing he won't do is just retire and play golf.
Of course, the exit could be sped up if Dimon got a call from Obama to be the Treasury Secretary to lead America into the recovery.