Wall Street Finds Sandy Silver Lining in Wine, Monopoly
Wall Street turned to Bordeaux, sushi and faxes as Hurricane Sandy wreaked the most havoc in the history of the city’s transit system and closed stock markets on consecutive days for the first time for weather since 1888.
“I had to go to the wine cellar and find a good bottle of wine and drink it before it goes bad,” Murry Stegelmann, 50, a founder of investment-management firm Kilimanjaro Advisors LLC, wrote in an e-mail after he lost power at 6 p.m. on Oct. 29 in Darien, Connecticut.
The bottle he chose, a 2005 Chateau Margaux, was given 98 points by wine critic Robert Parker and is on sale at the Westchester Wine Warehouse for $999.99.
“Outstanding,” Stegelmann said. He started the day with green tea at Starbucks, talking with neighbors about the New York Yankees’ future and moving boats to the parking lot of Darien’s Middlesex Middle School.
While Stegelmann didn’t make it in, at least two chief executive officers of Wall Street banks worked out of their headquarters during a storm that killed 18 people in New York City, sparked a fire that razed 111 homes in Queens, flooded tunnels of the biggest U.S. transit system and left 750,000 customers without power. Morgan Stanley (MS) CEO James Gorman walked three miles to get from the firm’s Times Square office to his home in Manhattan.
Wilson Ervin, a senior adviser to Credit Suisse Group AG CEO Brady Dougan and a former chief risk officer at the Zurich- based bank, started the work week at 9 a.m. at the Hudson River, just north of Battery Park City, watching the weather worsen with his two daughters.
“The Hudson had some enormous whitecaps and looked a bit like a surfing-movie set from Hawaii,” he said in an interview. “The kids think that’s pretty cool.”
Ervin, 52, wearing black water-repellent pants and a yellow raincoat, went to the bank’s office at 11 Madison Ave. afterward to work on evaluations of managing directors and financial regulation. He ate a lunch of Raisin Bran, coffee and a banana from the 7-Eleven downstairs, he said.
Pablo Salame, 46, one of three Goldman Sachs Group Inc. (GS) executives who oversee sales and trading, ate better. He posted a picture of 21 pieces of sushi on a Twitter account in his name on Oct. 29. “Only in NYC, Seamless Sandy sushi delivery in TriBeCa, Monday 730 pm,” the post said.
Bankers didn’t escape danger. The storm knocked a tree onto the Summit, New Jersey, home of Gordon Smith, the co-CEO of consumer and community banking at JPMorgan Chase & Co. (JPM) who will take over the largest U.S. bank’s mortgage business next year.
“He has a 60-foot tree on his house that’s knocked out his third floor, he’s been up all night,” Todd Maclin, his co-CEO, said Oct. 30. “I’m currently trying to get him a 150-foot crane so we can pull the tree off.”
JPMorgan, which sent out more than a dozen hurricane updates to its employees featuring detailed weather maps, kept parts of its 270 Park Ave. cafeteria open yesterday. Danishes and scones were available near the salad bar, and the bank’s deli had sandwiches with grilled vegetables. The dumpling bar was closed.
Morgan Stanley’s Gorman worked from the firm’s Times Square headquarters until mid-afternoon on Oct. 29, making him one of the last people to leave the building hours before Sandy made landfall, according to a person who works with him. He returned to the office the next day wearing blue jeans for the first time since he became CEO in 2010, the person said.
Sandy struck New York 13 days after Citigroup Inc. (C) directors ousted CEO Vikram Pandit and replaced him with Michael Corbat. The new boss, 52, spent time before the storm hit at the bank’s 399 Park Ave. “command center,” where he was briefed by senior managers, according to Shannon Bell, a spokeswoman.
The bank’s offices at 111 Wall St. were damaged that night when the storm battered lower Manhattan.
“The building experienced severe flooding and will be out of commission for several weeks,” Corbat wrote in a memo to employees yesterday.
The bank, the third-largest in the U.S., is assessing when buildings at 388 and 390 Greenwich St. can open, a process complicated by power failures and transit shutdowns, he said.
Wilbur Ross, who built a company from distressed U.S. coal assets and sold it last year for $3.4 billion, said on Oct. 29 that he’s staying out of New York for the week.
“I was scheduled to come back Sunday night, and I decided not to, because everything during the week would be canceled anyway,” said Ross, chairman of private-equity firm WL Ross & Co. “I’m stuck in Palm Beach.”
He stayed in touch with colleagues using a fax machine along with phone and e-mail. His Florida home includes a painting by Rene Magritte of petrified blue apples, an image that is also depicted on a custom-made Van Cleef & Arpels watch he owns, he told Bloomberg News this year.
Thomas Russo, 68, American International Group Inc.’s general counsel, said he planned to work from home on Manhattan’s Upper East Side, where he has a view of Central Park, through at least Nov. 1.
“Central Park looks the same as it always does at this time of year, an array of colors giving pleasure to the eye and peace to the mind,” the former chief legal officer for Lehman Brothers Holdings Inc. said after the storm.
Sean Gambino, who trades consumer stocks for Schottenfeld Group LLC, said his South Street Seaport neighborhood was “ruined” by a storm surge. He wrote instant messages because his phone wasn’t working.
“I now know what people feel like when you see them on TV and see their whole worlds just wiped away,” Gambino wrote. “Cars were just all over.”
His apartment’s lobby and basement were flooded.
“Think Katrina, but now it’s us,” he said.
The impact was less severe in Greenwich, Connecticut, where a 41-year-old hedge-fund manager played a family game of Monopoly on and off from lunchtime to 9:30 p.m. the day of the storm, the investor said, declining to give his name because of his fund’s media policy.
His 10-year-old twin sons and six-year-old daughter don’t enjoy playing with him because he refuses to trade properties and plays to win, he said. He beat them after putting a hotel on Park Place.
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