John Gutfreund

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John Gutfreund
John Gutfreund.jpg
John Halle Gutfreund

(1929-09-14)September 14, 1929
DiedMarch 9, 2016(2016-03-09) (aged 86)
New York City, U.S.
Alma materOberlin College (BA)
Occupation(s)Investment banker, businessman and investor
EmployerSalomon Brothers
SpouseJoyce Low
Military career
Allegiance United States
Service/branch United States Army
Years of service1951-1953
RankUS Army O2 shoulderboard rotated.svg First lieutenant
UnitMilitary Police Corps
Battles/warsKorean War

John Halle Gutfreund[1] (14 September 1929 – 9 March 2016) was an American banker, businessman, and investor. He was the CEO of Salomon Brothers Inc, an investment bank that gained prominence in the 1980s. Gutfreund turned Salomon Brothers from a private partnership into a publicly traded corporation,[2] which started a trend in Wall Street for investment companies to go public.[3] In 1985, Business Week gave him the nickname "King of Wall Street".[4]

Early life and education[edit]

Gutfreund grew up in a Jewish family[5] in Scarsdale, a suburb of New York City. His father, Manuel Gutfreund, was the owner of a prosperous trucking company. He attended the Lawrenceville School.[6] In 1951, Gutfreund graduated from Oberlin College in Ohio with a degree in English.[7] He considered teaching literature but instead joined the Army. In 1953, he was discharged. His father belonged to the Century Country Club in Purchase, New York (which was at the time a center for the German Jewish establishment) where he often golfed with William (Billy) Salomon, the son of Percy Salomon, one of the three founding brothers of Salomon Brothers. At Billy Salomon's invitation, the young Gutfreund joined Salomon Brothers as a trainee in the statistical department.[8]


After several months, Gutfreund became a clerk in the municipal bond department, eventually becoming a trader. He rose quickly through the company and became a full partner at the age of thirty four.[8] In 1978, Billy Salomon named Gutfreund to succeed him as head of the firm,[9] becoming the highest paid Wall Street executive at the time. Besides his executive office on the 43rd floor of 1 New York Plaza, Gutfreund frequently occupied a two-person desk at the head of the massive, double-decker 41st floor fixed income trading floor, known as 'the Room', where Gutfreund would regularly give advice to individual traders.[10]

In early 1991, when Gutfreund was CEO of Salomon Brothers, a major scandal took place regarding the way Treasury bond trading was done by Salomon. Paul Mozer, head of the Government Bond desk at Salomon Brothers, was submitting bids in excess of what was allowed by the Treasury rules. When this was discovered and brought to the attention of Gutfreund, he did not immediately suspend Mr. Mozer.[11] The exposure of Mr. Mozer's repeated violations of U.S. government bond auction rules resulted in a significant scandal during which regulators and some politicians called on the firm to be stripped of its Primary Dealer status. This action would have threatened the survival of the firm, then the largest participant in the U.S. government and mortgage bond trading markets. Warren Buffett, who through Berkshire Hathaway had recently acquired a $700 million preferred equity position in Salomon, became alarmed by the activities of the firm. Buffett actively took measures with Salomon in order to protect his investment, including briefly serving as CEO of Salomon Brothers.[4] As a result of the scandal, Gutfreund and other senior managers of Salomon were forced to resign in 1991.[12]

From January 2002, Gutfreund was senior managing director and executive committee member of the investment bank C.E. Unterberg, Towbin. He was also president of Gutfreund & Company, a New York-based financial consulting firm that specialized in advising corporations and financial institutions in the US, Europe and Asia.[13][14]


Gutfreund was featured prominently in the 1989 book Liar's Poker by Michael Lewis, a former employee of Salomon. Gutfreund would later tell Lewis that "Your fucking book destroyed my career, and it made yours."[2]

The UJA-Federation of New York honored him for his charitable activities and contributions.[5]

Personal life[edit]

Gutfreund was married twice:

Gutfreund died on 9 March 2016, aged 86.[21][22][7]


  1. ^ pronounced "goodfriend"
  2. ^ a b Michael Lewis, The End,, 11 November 2008
  3. ^ "Liars Poker II, Timesonline". 2012-03-13. Retrieved 2012-07-24.
  4. ^ a b "Ex-Salomon Chief's Costly Battle". The New York Times. August 19, 1994.
  5. ^ a b New York Times: "Private Sector; Tapping the Wall Street Melting Pot" By Patrick McGeehan (COMPILED BY RICK GLADSTONE) November 25, 2001
  6. ^ "NOTABLE ALUMNI". The Lawrenceville School. Retrieved October 16, 2014.
  7. ^ a b Kandell, Jonathan (March 9, 2016). "John Gutfreund, Who Ran Salomon Brothers at Its Apex, Is Dead at 86". New York Times. Retrieved March 9, 2016.
  8. ^ a b c "New York Stories: Landmark Writing from Four Decades of New York Magazine" By Steve Fishman p171
  9. ^ TOO FAR, TOO FAST; Salomon Brothers' John Gutfreund, The New York Times, January 10, 1988
  10. ^ Euromoney: "An interview with John Gutfreund " October 1, 1979
  11. ^ "Inaction Can be as Dangerous as Bad Action, Aly Gonenne, Class of 2004, Duke Leadership Development Initiative". Archived from the original on 2010-06-18. Retrieved 2012-07-24.
  12. ^ The Economist: "John Gutfreund Resurrection: A Wall Street legend seeks to recapture former glories" May 8th 2003
  13. ^ John H. Gutfreund Archived June 10, 2007, at the Wayback Machine
  14. ^ "John H. Gutfreund's bio". Archived from the original on 2016-01-13. Retrieved 2012-07-24.
  15. ^ a b c New York Magazine: "Hard to be Rich" by John Taylor Jan 11, 1988
  16. ^ New York Times: "A Fallen King In Search of a Lesser Throne" By PETER TRUELL May 03, 1998
  17. ^ People: "The Party's Over" By Karen S. Schneider September 9, 1991
  18. ^ People: "Marriage with a Midas Touch" By Elizabeth Sporkin May 07, 1990
  19. ^ New York Times: "THE SOCIAL SCRAMBLE IS ON" by Charlotte Curtis - Cultural Desk September 17, 1985
  20. ^ New York Observer: "Consummate Hostess Susan Gutfreund Advises Wall Street Wives to Stay Home" By Irina Aleksander May 5, 2009
  21. ^ Wall Street Journal John Gutfreund former king of Wall Street, dies at 86
  22. ^ John Gutfreund, ‘King of Wall Street’ who helped transform Salomon Brothers, dies at 86, Washington Post

External links[edit]