'King of Wall Street' trading legend John Gutfreund dies at 86

Reuters News
|
Posted: Mar 09, 2016 6:39 PM

By Dan Freed

(Reuters) - John Gutfreund, legendary bond trader and former Chief Executive of Salomon Brothers, has died at the age of 86, an associate of the banker said on Wednesday.

Gutfreund was dubbed the "King of Wall Street" by Business Week in 1985, as Salomon revolutionized bond trading. The firm played a critical role in creating mortgage-backed securities, among other innovations.

The cigar-smoking financier was immortalized in Michael Lewis's "Liar's Poker," one of the seminal books about Wall Street, written in 1989.

"At any given moment on the trading floor billions of dollars were being risked by bond traders," Lewis wrote. "Gutfreund took the pulse of the place by simply wandering around it and asking questions of the traders. An eerie sixth sense guided him to wherever a crisis was unfolding. Gutfreund seemed able to smell money being lost."

After joining Salomon Brothers as a trainee in the statistical department earning $45 per week in the 1950s, Gutfreund rose to head the firm in 1978.

Gutfreund took Salomon Brothers public and earned $40 million personally, according to Liar's Poker. He was forced out in 1991 due to a Treasury bond trading scandal. Gutfreund earned $3.1 million in 1986, more than any other Wall Street CEO at the time.

The Wall Street Journal first reported Gutfreund's death earlier on Wednesday.

(Reporting by Dan Freed in New York; additional reporting by Nikhil Subba in Bengaluru; Editing by Shounak Dasgupta, Lauren Tara LaCapra and Diane Craft)