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7 of 8 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A dramatic TKO on Wall Street, 21 May 2009
By 
Robert Morris (Dallas, Texas) - See all my reviews
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As I began to read this account of "the last 72 hours of Bear Stearns, the toughest firm on Wall Street," so powerful are Kate Kelly's narrative and descriptive skills that it soon seemed as if I were seeing a film rather than reading a book. Colorful characters, fast-moving plot, vivid images, lively dialog, riveting conflicts and confrontations, increasing tension, and then....

The book's narrative begins at 5:30 P.M. on Thursday, March 13, 2008, and continues until 8:30 PM on Sunday, March 16, 2008, followed by an Epilogue in which Kelly reviews subsequent developments at other firms (e.g. Lehman, AIG, Merrill) and provides a follow-up on Bear Stearns' key leaders. From Thursday through Sunday, at a pace that astonished everyone involved, the once-proud firm of "street fighters...lean, scrappy, and hungry for profits," a firm that had "an underdog's spirit, and relished the chance to knock more well-heeled firms down a peg or two," saw its stock take a "breathtaking drop." It had sold for $172 in January of 2007, was selling for $57 on March 13, 2008, and continued to plunge so far and so fast ($30.00 on March 14) that when Bear received J.P. Morgan Chase's final offer, the stock was valued at $2.00.

How to explain Bear's decline and fall? Kelly offers several reasons. Here are four:

1. Dysfunctional leadership (e.g. its CFO, Sam Molinaro, was "hopelessly disorganized" amidst toxic infighting between and among the firm's leaders)

2. Decision-making that Jim Collins describes (in How the Mighty Fall) as "grasping for salvation" in Stage 4 of a five-stage process of organizational decline

3. Indifference to promising new diagnostics such as a risk-assessment matrix to pinpoint the firm's exposure to the markets that a Bear employee had taken years to develop

4. Senior managers' obsession with wealth accumulation, with a concern for the firm's welfare only to the extent that it enabled them to achieve that objective

Over time, it became obvious to Bear's leaders (including board members) that the firm would either have to accept the best offer (and whether or not there would be any remained in doubt throughout most of the frantic weekend) or file for bankruptcy. Meanwhile, negotiations continued with other firms (notably J.P. Morgan Chase, Goldman Sachs, and J.C. Flowers), with the Federal Reserve (Tim Geithner, Ben Bernanke, and Kevin Walsh), and the U.S. Treasury (Hank Paulson and Bob Steel). Advisors to Bear Stearns included Gary Parr (Lazard), Rodge Cohen (Sullivan & Cromwell LLP), and Dennis Block (Cadwalader, Wickersham & Taft LLP). Finally, the deal was made with J.P. Morgan Chase.

In her Epilogue, Kelly notes that "Bear failed because the credit crisis of 2008 killed every firm with a large mortgage business, too little diversification to offset the losses from bad loans, and the inability to be proactive. These factors ruined Lehman Brothers, and, directly or indirectly, almost sank Fannie, Freddie, AIG, and Merrill Lynch - until the government, private industry, or both stanched the bleeding." She goes on to suggest that, among the investment banks that once dominated the U.S. economy, Bear, the fifth largest, "was also uniquely vulnerable. The simple spirit that made Ace Greenberg the company's most celebrated figure - that of cutting losses early, saving money on paper clips and envelopes, and guarding religiously against outsized risk - had long since been replaced by a more cavalier outlook. Its chief proponent was Jimmy Cayne." It seems probable that the firm's subsequent decline can be traced back to Cayne's appointment as CEO but there were others who must share the blame, notably the firm's subsequent CEO, Alan Schwartz, who "was in denial about his company's travails and when capital-generating opportunities appeared in January and February, he "essentially dismissed them."

As Schwartz departed Bear's headquarters on Sunday evening, Parr caught up with him in the hallway and urged him to feel very good about what he had accomplished. "You've done a remarkable job in working this through." Schwartz shook his head, struggling to collect himself. "I feel terrible," he finally said.

The End
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4.0 out of 5 stars Recommended., 7 May 2014
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This review is from: Street Fighters (Paperback)
A very good read that tells it like it is. How the muppets at the top of Bear Stearns could've dug such a hole and turned a blind eye and allowed the huge loses in their mortgage department....despite being repeatedly warned .....beggers belief! The sad thing at the end of the book is not the end of Bear Stearns but the fact that nothing happens to the guilty..... And they just move to other firms.
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4.0 out of 5 stars an entertaining read, 11 Mar 2012
A quick entertaining read, that'll keep you hooked for a weekend or long day. not much substance to it though but aids in making it more accessible.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent Book., 15 Dec 2011
This review is from: Street Fighters (Paperback)
Even though the outcome is reasonably well known, this book is still very exciting and its almost real time format only adds to this. Compulsive reading.
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4.0 out of 5 stars Well worth reading, 3 May 2010
I finished this book in about 2 and a half days as once I had started it I couldn't put it down. True its not that long of a book but really worth the read. Two caveats - the author does let herself down at times when trying to explain the financial products involved and this book was probably not as well researched as 'Too Big to Fail'. However, I really got it into the characters and the whirlwind that was the last 72 hours. Overall, a very enjoyable and interesting read.
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4.0 out of 5 stars A good but not the best account of how Bear Stearns came crashing down, 3 Feb 2010
By 
J. H. R. Cornell (Guildford) - See all my reviews
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As the description suggests this book details the last 72 hours of Bear Stearns, the fifth largest American Investment banks. existence before its purchase by JP Morgan.

I would have enjoyed it a lot more had I not read William Cohan's superb House of Cards House of Cards: How Wall Street's Gamblers Broke Capitalism: The Fall of Bear Stearns and the Collapse of the Global Market which in my mind is a lot better

In my mind Street Fighters feels like quite a short book excluding the index and the sources section at the back, its about 220 pages long. I don't think this is long enough to give such a fascinating event enough coverage.

The book seems to be well researched and there is plenty of input from the main characters, those running the bank, those thinking about buying the bank and the people from the US Fed and other government agencies. The author clearly understands her subject and all of the book is very understandable. There is no financial gobbledygook or alphabet soup of financial acronyms that crop up in other credit crunch books.

One of the things which I found quite annoying is that in the middle of the sometimes, hour by hour account, there are plenty of bits of historic narrative about the history of the firm and some of the individuals and for me this broke up the excitement of reading what happened in the last few hours.

Whilst the book stops after Bear Stearns is bought by JP Morgan on the sunday night, there is a short epilogue which explains some of the things which happened afterwards. In my view, one of the most interesting things about this event is that the purchase price went up from $2 per share to $10 per share in the weeks after and whilst the book mentions this it makes no attempt to explain the background. William Cohan's book has a detailed account of the reasons and the background for this crucial change.

If you have read House of Cards, I probably wouldn't bother with this book as it doesn't tell you anything you don't know already. If you haven't read House of Cards and are looking for a shortish account of the final days of Bear Stearns this is a good book. If you want a detailed, well written and researched account, I would strongly recommend you read House of Cards.
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2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars What a story, 15 Nov 2009
By 
Mariusz Skonieczny "Author" (classicvalueinvestors com) - See all my reviews
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What an amazing story. Bear Sterns, one of the most powerful financial companies in the country, trades at $57 on Thursday, March 13, 2008, and within 72 hours it is sold for $2, on Sunday, March 16, 2008. I found this book to be just incredible. The author writes in a narrative format about the 72 hours detailing all the events that lead to the collapse of Bear Sterns. It almost seems like you are in a movie theatre watching a documentary.

The book presents how the hubris, greed, and culture of the firm's employees made them care about one thing - the money. In the end, they ended up paying a steep price for their actions. If you want to read an amazing story, this is a good book.

- Mariusz Skonieczny, author of Why Are We So Clueless about the Stock Market? Learn how to invest your money, how to pick stocks, and how to make money in the stock market
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1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A STAR IS BORN!, 11 Sep 2010
By 
DOPPLEGANGER (TEDDY B) - See all my reviews
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Kate, welcome onto the literary stage, you have the enviable talent of being able to turn a complex drama centered around the 'dry' old subject of finance, with many characters and being played out over just 72 hours, into a gripping, interesting and easily understandable account. You wisely resisted the pitfall of trying to educate the reader in the intricacies of modern 'casino' banking, which most other writers of The Credit Crunch debacle have fallen into. When most of the people at the very top of the banks and other financial institutions didn't understand the unbridled speculation going on under their very eyes and custodianship, it seems a bit pointless trying to 'speed' educate readers like myself, a long retired 68 year old into becoming a 'whiz-bang' degree totting 'Quant'.

'Street Fighters' is clear as to it's objective, namely to guide the reader carefully through the frantic attempts to save an old established 'maverick' investment bank from '3 days away' bankruptcy, in the most lucid way possible. That she succeeds is testament indeed to her talent as a writer.

As one progresses through the chapters, it becomes blindingly obvious that Bear Sterns financial woes are largely self-inflicted and will provide University Business Faculties with endless cannon-fodder for the "How not to" syllabus.

I have read most books on the recent financial troubles and this is one of the best.
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