The Spectacular Rise, Fall, And Sudden Return Of Erin Callan

Erin Callan

Photo: CNBC screencap

Former Lehman Brothers chief financial officer Erin Callan disappeared from the public eye after the bank’s demise in 2008. Now she’s living a much quieter life in Florida with her new husband.

However, she’s returned to the spotlight to weigh in on the work/life balance debate reignited by the release of Facebook executive Sheryl Sandberg’s book, “Lean In.”

Callan wrote an op-ed in the New York Times and appeared in an interview of “Rock centre.”

She has been warning other women not to lean in the way she did because she missed out on important relationships in her life and having children of her own. 

For a brief moment in time, though, Callan was one of the most powerful women on Wall Street. 

Erin Marie Callan grew up middle class in Queens, New York.

Callan's father was a police officer and her mother was a homemaker. She was one of three daughters.

Source: 'Too Big To Fail'

She was competitive from a very young age. Callan was even one of the city's top gymnasts.

When Callan was 13 years-old, she was featured in the New York Times as one of the top gymnasts in the city.

In high school, the football players would come in the gym to watch her practice, a coach told Fortune magazine.

She was so intense and competitive that she would practice the sport until her hands would bleed.

Source: Fortune Magazine

She excelled academically graduating magna cum laude from Harvard.

Then she attended NYU for law school

She studied tax law at NYU.

She started her career as a lawyer at Simpson Thatcher & Bartlett.

She worked in the tax department.

John Carney, who runs CNBC's NetNet and was a M&A/finance lawyer, once wrote that tax lawyers are usually the smartest people at law firms.

Lehman Brother was one of the firm's clients.

Source: 'Too Big To Fail'

She called up Lehman and to ask about working there.

Callan joined Lehman in 1995 and quickly climbed the ranks in the firm.

At age 41 she was appointed the first female CFO of Lehman Brothers. It was a controversial decision, too.

In September 2007, Lehman Brothers President Joseph Gregory appointed Callan as the CFO.

Callan, who was only 41 at the time, became the first woman ever on Lehman's 13-person executive committee.

However, her promotion was controversial. She didn't have a background in accounting and didn't know much about the firm's treasury operations, which are essential tracks to the CFO office.

Source: 'Too Big To Fail'

She was considered a very fashionable and 'well-heeled' exec.

In 'Too Big To Fail', Andrew Ross Sorkin described Callan as a 'striking blonde who favoured Sex and the City-style stilettos.'

She even had a personal shopper at Bergdorf Goodman who would send clothes to her apartment.

Three months into the job, she was tasked with soothing worries about Lehman being the next Bear Stearns.

There was talk that Lehman could be the next Bear Stearns.

On March 18, 2008, Callan had to go over Lehman's earnings results on a conference call and answer analysts' questions.

There was a lot of pressure on her, but she pulled it off.

Even noted bank critic Meredith Whitney said she did a great job on the call. Lehman's stock ended up having the biggest one-day gain since it went public during that trading session.

Source: 'Too Big To Fail'

Not everyone was buying it though, especially young hedge fund hot-shot David Einhorn.

In May of 2008, Callan called Einhorn 'disingenuous' following a telephone conversation and email exchange because she felt he had 'cherry picked' comments and 'set her up' ahead of a presentation he was going to give about shorting the stock at a conference.

Einhorn ended up being right in the end.

Source: Business Insider

Callan left Lehman three months before the bank failed.

Callan was regarded as the 'most powerful woman on Wall Street,' but only for a very short period of time.

She resigned after the bank posted second quarter earnings that the market didn't like at all.

In September 2008, Lehman filed for bankruptcy.

She then joined Credit Suisse as a managing director for a short time.

Credit Suisse announced that Callan would be the head of its global hedge fund business.

In February 2009, she took a leave of absence from Credit Suisse and left the firm officially on December 31, 2009, according to DealBook report.

After Wall Street, she stayed in this Hamptons hideaway with her boyfriend.

After leaving the Street, Callan had been living with her boyfriend Anthony Montella in her East Hampton home, according to NetNet.

She put the home on the market back in September 2012.

They got married at Rockefeller centre in November 2011. This was her second marriage.

In November 2011, she married her Queens firefighter beau, Anthony Montella, during a ceremony at 620 Loft and Garden at Rockefeller centre.

The 'well-heeled' Callan wore a pair of Jimmy Choos on her wedding day.

Source: DealBook

They first met in high school. He emailed her after seeing her on TV.

Montella told 'Rock centre' that he saw Callan on TV and sent her an email that afternoon.

Callan said she wrote him back and that she appreciated his 'kind thoughts.' She asked for him to send a picture because there were so many Anthonys in their high school.

Four years later they were married.

The couple first met in high school at St. Francis Prep.

Source: 'Rock centre'

They have been living in this modest home in Sanibel, Florida.

The home sold for $829,000 in December 2011, according to Zillow.

We haven't heard much from Callan until recently. She's been providing her perspective on Sheryl Sandberg's 'Lean In.'

Callan emerged as a new voice in the work/life balance debate after writing an op-ed in the New York Times warning about the consequences of leaning too far.

'I wanted to be a little bit of sort of a cautionary tale,' she said in an interview with Ann Curry on 'Rock centre.'

'You can achieve. You can accomplish. You can have an amazing career with great success even in a male-dominated field like I did, but be careful what you wish for and the choices that you make.'

She went on to explain that she leaned in really far on Wall Street spending a lot of time on her Blackberry and at the office ultimately ignoring her relationships with friends and family.

'I leaned in far, very far,' she said, adding, 'Don't do it like me. I don't think the way I was doing it was the healthiest, happiest way to do it.'

Source: 'Rock centre'

Because she leaned in so far, she didn't spend enough time with her first husband, friends and family.

She acknowledges that she didn't spend enough time with her first husband. That marriage ended in divorce.

She also missed out on having kids.

Source: New York Times

At 47, Callan and her new husband are still trying to have kids.

She has said they're trying in vitro fertilization.

'There's nothing I could imagine the two of us having a child together..I do think it would add a lot for me to be a mother and for us as a couple,' she told 'Rock centre.'

Source: 'Rock centre'

Callan is no longer working. She said she has found 'peace' and 'love.'

'I don't wake up everyday with the anxiety of doing the next big thing. I'm OK with who I am.'

Source: 'Rock centre'

Now let's meet Wall Street's most powerful women today...

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