At the height of the financial crisis last year, John Mack was furious at CNBC for the way they were covering Morgan Stanley. He even went so far to complain to Jeff Immelt, the CEO of G.E. (which owns CNBC), according to Andrew Ross Sorkin.
“Mack believed negative speculation was purposely being spread by his rivals and repeated uncritically on CNBC,” Sorkin writes. Mack even described the CNBC coverage as “bullshit.” That’s a pretty strong accusation to level against a reporter or anchor.
So whose reporting or commentary was ticking off Mack? We did some digging into this question.
- It wasn’t David Faber. Faber’s commentary consistently praised John Mack and described Morgan Stanley as a strong institution. He put down talk of a merger or partner when Morgan Stanley was denying it was doing a deal. (Although it now seems they were in fact in talks with various firms despite these denials.)
- It wasn’t Charlie Gasparino. A person familiar with the matter says that Mack was actually praising Gasparino during the crisis. Mack has said recently that he wasn’t talking about Gasparino when he said CNBC was parroting negative hedge fund speculation.
- It may have been Maria Bartiromo. At least one person familiar with Mack’s thinking at the time thinks it may have been something the Money Honey said that angered Mack. We’ve reviewed a lot of video from the height of the crisis, however, and we can’t find anything too damning. She did once jokingly ask a correspondent if the lights were still on at Morgan Stanley’s headquarters. But that hardly fits the bill.
- It may have been no one in particular. One person who has recently spoken to Mack told us that Mack may not have really had any particular CNBC personality in mind at all. It may have just been the relentless reporting about the decline in Morgan Stanley’s stock and rumours of troubles in general.