Richard S. Fuld Jr.
• More than doubled market capitalization, to $19 billion
• Increased global market share for debt and equity issuance from 5.5% a year ago to 6.5% in 2001
PHOTO BY SUZANNE OPTON
Richard S. Fuld Jr., chairman and CEO of Lehman Brothers Inc. (LEH ), is pretty good at proving naysayers wrong. Ever since American Express Co. (AXP ) spun off Lehman in 1994, Wall Street insiders have speculated that Lehman, the fourth-largest traditional investment bank, couldn't stay independent for long. The firm suffered a setback on September 11: One Lehman employee was killed, its headquarters building near Ground Zero was severely damaged, and its market share fell, as reflected in its fourth-quarter results.
But these blows have only made Fuld and his team more determined to expand Lehman's reach. "In a sad, peculiar way, I'm reenergized by all that's happened. It was that horrible, unfortunate event that got my people to come together in such a strong way," says Fuld. And that is largely because of his straight-shooting, gutsy, contrarian leadership style. While rivals are laying off thousands to cut costs, Fuld, 55, who started with Lehman as a commercial-paper trader in 1969, insists he will keep his staff intact and hire new talent.
Even with the recent troubles, it was a dazzling year for Fuld. Lehman gained market share in global debt and equity issuance, and its market cap held steady as rivals saw theirs sink. Some Wall Street insiders speculate that Fuld will buy a clearing or asset-management firm to keep Lehman on its upward trajectory. Fuld says he is not against making a purchase that will boost return on equity. But he adds: "It would have to be a terrific deal because it would be destabilizing. I have my team doing exactly what I want them to do." Even the naysayers would have to agree.