New York – Alan “Ace” Greenberg, the former chairman and chief executive officer of Bear Stearns Cos Inc, died on Friday at the age of 86 after a bout with cancer.
Greenberg has been credited with engineering the rise of Bear Stearns in the second-half of the 20th century, when it became one of the largest standalone investment banks on Wall Street.
In 2008, when the investment bank’s exposure to toxic mortgage bonds brought it to the brink of collapse, JPMorgan Chase & Co rescued Bear Stearns and kept Greenberg on as vice chairman emeritus of its global wealth management business.
“It’s hard to imagine a financial services industry without Ace,” wrote JPMorgan Chief Executive Officer Jamie Dimon and asset management chief Mary Erdoes in a note to employees on Friday.
A spokesman for JPMorgan said Greenberg had still been coming to his office at the bank up until this week.
Greenberg’s 65-year career on Wall Street began in 1949 when he joined Bear Sterns as a clerk. He rose through the ranks to become trader, partner and, in 1978, chief executive. Upon Bear Stearns’ initial public offering in 1985, Greenberg was named chairman of the company.
He ceded his role as CEO to Jimmy Cayne in 1993 and his role as chairman of the board in 2001, though he held onto the position of chairman of Bear Stearns’s executive committee.
In March 2008, as the subprime mortgage crisis was intensifying, Bear Stearns’ share price began plunging, and the Federal Reserve Bank of New York helped engineer JPMorgan’s rescue of the bank. That deal closed in May 2008 and JPMorgan later stopped using the Bear Stearns name.
Born in Oklahoma City in 1927, Greenberg attended the University of Oklahoma on a football scholarship before suffering a back injury and subsequently transferring to the University of Missouri. He graduated from the school with a degree in business in 1949.
He was the author of the 1996 book “Memos from the Chairman” and, along with Mark Singer, of the 2010 history “The Rise and Fall of Bear Stearns.”
Greenberg’s hobbies included performing magic tricks and playing bridge. He was a member of the Society of American Magicians and was also a national U.S. champion bridge player, along with Cayne.