On the fifth anniversary of the fall of Lehman Brothers, hundreds of the firm’s former traders and bankers met up at B.B. King’s in Times Square for a reunion.
The event, which was called “LEH Rocks On,” wasn’t about commemorating the demise of the once powerful Wall Street bank. Instead, it was about bringing together old colleagues and friends to listen to Lehman alumni bands and raise funds for the 9/11 Memorial Fund Foundation.
One thing that was apparent last night is that there remains a great deal of camaraderie amongst the Lehman alums. What’s more, many of them have kept each other in their professional networks across Wall Street.
“It was interesting because Lehman people scattered to different banks and hedge funds, so you have a friend at almost every institution. They always take your call. It’s a very powerful network,” a former Lehman employee told us.
Another former employee added that when people went to Lehman back then they intended to stay there for a long time. Ironically, when they all had to go their separate ways they left with a great business network, he explained.
“It would not have been the way a drew it up, but I have a lot of great business contact,” he told us.
One Lehman alum who was absent last night was the ex-CEO Dick Fuld. No one expected him to show up, though.
“I doubt he makes too many public appearances,” one former Lehman employee told us.
In case you missed the show, we have included highlights in the slides that follow. Now let’s get to meet the Lehman alumni bands.
Here we are outside B.B. Kings. 'LEH' was the bank's stock ticker symbol, so the average passerby probably wouldn't recognise that it was a Lehman event.
You could tell it was a finance crowd last night. Several folks were wearing the trader uniform (blue dress shirt, fleece vest and bit loafers). Gym bags with Nomura and Barclays logos were scattered on some of the tables. Those firms took on huge blocks of Lehman employees after the bank's downfall.
There were two Lehman alumni bands -- Fifth of Bourbon (Ken Umezaki, Fred Gilde, Jock Jones, Matt Fink) and The Fifth Wheel (Mike Neumann, Greg Gentile, Alex Kirk, Paul Altomonte).
The band members told us stories about the final days of Lehman. When the firm went under, all that deferred compensation was null and void. For some folks, that meant five years of work 'down the tubes.' One of the alums said that you notice some guys still working who are 'a little old for the industry.'
Also, everyone kept on trying to figure out the identity of the guy in this photo. We were stumped, too. Someone finally got it. It's Leo Nocentelli from The Meters.
Fifth of Bourbon was also selling albums for charity. Ken Umezaki explained their style as 'imagine Janis Joplin fronting Led Zeppelin and performing electric blues versions of Howlin' Wolf songs...'
Greg Gentile was the head of emerging markets structured credit trading at Lehman. He told us that things got 'progressively worse' during those final days. When his desk found out about the bankruptcy, they got a case of champagne and filled the garbage cans with ice.
Ken Umezaki, who spent nearly 20 years at Lehman, gave the opening remarks. He noted that while the bank is gone, there are still a lot of great people.
Kathleen Fletcher is the lead singer for Fifth of Bourbon. She didn't work at Lehman. Ken Umezaki's personal trainer heard her singing R&B at Starbucks one day and told her she should audition for Fifth of Bourbon. That's how they found her.
Drummer Matt Fink was a summer analyst at Lehman while in business school. When the bank filed for bankruptcy, he went to Barclays. He now works at another investment bank.
Greg Gentile, who now runs GMG Investment Advisors, played his cover of LMFAO's 'Sexy And I Know It.'
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