Jimmy Cayne has better things to do than deal with silly Wall Street crises

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The W$J has a big front-page story on Bear Stearns CEO James Cayne’s priorities:

During 10 critical days of this crisis — one of the worst in the securities firm’s 84-year history — Bear’s chief executive wasn’t near his Wall Street office. James Cayne was playing in a bridge tournament in Nashville, Tenn., without a cellphone or an email device. In one closely watched competition, his team placed in the top third.

As Bear’s fund meltdown was helping spark this year’s mortgage-market and credit convulsions, Mr. Cayne at times missed key events. At a tense August conference call with investors, he left after a few opening words and listeners didn’t know when he returned. In summer weeks, he typically left the office on Thursday afternoon and spent Friday at his New Jersey golf club, out of touch for stretches, according to associates and golf records. In the critical month of July, he spent 10 of the 21 workdays out of the office, either at the bridge event or golfing, according to golf, bridge and hotel records.

I can’t quite decide whether I find this admirable or appalling, but I’m leaning toward the former. I guess I just like the idea of a major Wall Street firm being run by a pot-smoking former scrap-iron salesman who doesn’t carry his Blackberry with him much of the time and lets his underlings do their jobs without too much interference (yup, all in the article). Then again, I’m not a Bear Stearns shareholder. I’d say the WSJ article puts Cayne back at or near the top of the endangered financial CEO list.

Update: Gotta love this, from the FT:

Dick Bove, an analyst at Punk, Ziegel, said in a research note that the Journal article could increase the likelihood that Bear will be a takeover candidate. “This article clearly places the company in play because it is more likely that Mr Cayne will sell Bear Stearns before he will retire in disgrace,” Mr Bove said.

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