Talk:Zalman Bernstein

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personal reminiscences[edit]

Mr Bernstein was larger than life, a true American character. His company debuted with an ad in either the Wall St Journal or the New York Times that simply said "Bernstein." For years, the company was marketed as "Bernstein, period". A story on him in Instutional Investor magazine was titled "Right or wrong, but never in doubt".

Company legend said he once was on a sales call to a potential client (generally institutional investors such as pension funds) and they were not buying his pitch. He climbed onto the conference table and started making points by indicating numbers on various documents with his feet. Another legend said that he'd once caused or nearly caused a wildcat strike by waitstaff during a fancy client meal by making a racist remark.

By 1989, he had a corner office on the 22nd floor of the GM building, directly overlooking the Central Park skating rink. He had a number of things he or other company employees had said typeset and hung on his office wall. One of these was "I have twenty million dollars in treasury bills and I want my own hotel room now." Others were "We had a really good year last week" and "About _____, he just happens to be a moron."

He used to play chess against potential hires to see how they thought. He also had the company administer an SAT-like test to potential hires to get an objective view of their math abilities.

At the company's 25th anniversary gala, a black tie dinner at the Waldorf-Astoria in 1992, the staff (around 400-800 people at this point) serenaded him with the Frank Sinatra signature song "My Way", with the words changed to be "We did it your way".

In 1972, when a young analyst resigned with a long letter listing the problems with the research department, Bernstein promoted the analyst, Lew Sanders, to head of the department; Sanders went on to succeed Bernstein as CEO 21 years later when Bernstein promoted himself to "Chairman of the Executive Committee"; by then he was spending most of his time in Israel, receiving reams of faxes from New York tracking the markets and important deals.

His favorite color was green, like money. The office carpets were green, the cubicles were green, the chairs were green, the laminate desks and marble receptionists counters were green, and the paper clips were green. Mr B was the only person in the company allowed to have a pen with green ink. He clipped news articles he thought were of interest and wrote personal comments in the margins and had them copied onto dark green paper and distributed to every employee; these were known as "greenies"; eventually, around 1994, these were copied onto white paper with a green heading, since reading black ink on dark green paper was very difficult.

Occasionally, often around the winter holidays, Mr B would select books to send to every client. One was "Extraordinary Popular Delusions and the Madness of Crowds". In general, his company treated employees to a lot of luxuries while also working them very hard. In addition to typical Wall St perks like college tuition assistance, hefty holiday bonuses, transit coupons, car services and food deliveries for employees working late, the company provided breakfast and lunch free to all employees, which of course meant that people went to the kitchen, grabbed some food, and ate at their desks while continuing to work instead of leaving the office for an hour for lunch.

The company also would provide matching donations and special grants to charities sponsored by employees, for many years held an anniversary black tie party at the Waldorf Astoria (1990 and 1992 were the last two of these) and gave gifts on certain anniversaries of employment; after five years, male employees received gold cufflinks with bees (the company symbol) on them, after twenty years, a glass beehive from Tiffany's. At the same time, plenty of employees routinely worked sixty hour weeks.

Mr B was married three times. His first marriage had at least one child, a son, and his third produced a daughter. Here's the story of him arguing the strong-willed rabbis of Israel into giving him the grave site he wanted:

The company rented Carnagie Hall for his memorial service, and soon after his passing, sold itself to a larger Wall St firm.


This person is tagged as a Philanthropist but there is nothing indicating philanthropic achievements in this article suggest the philanthropist tags be removed. 1210donna (talk) 22:53, 25 January 2015 (UTC)