The Devil’s Casino

Blurbs For The Devil’s Casino

Lehman Brothers, the oldest partnership on Wall Street, was always a brilliant but cursed child. Its life, and death, tells us why it was a magnet for talent, and why it was toxic. There have been a slew of terrific books on how Wall Street brought the economy to its knees, but in The Devil’s Casino, Vicky Ward does something unusual. She takes the reader inside. Not just inside the financial instruments, but inside the culture that sired them; inside the families, including the spouses and children that enjoyed lavish riches; and inside the internal rivalries and mismanagement that speeded the fall. Reads of this remarkable tale do not stand outside looking in, their noses pressed to the glass; we are inside looking out. We feel the seething greed and jealousies – the stuff that makes novels come alive. In the end, the child dies. But because of the way Vicky Ward unspools the sage of Lehman, its life and death will both instruct and forever sear your memory.

— Ken Auletta
author of Googled: The End of the World as We Know It and Greed and Glory on Wall Street: The Fall of The House of Lehman

The Devil’s Casino tells the riveting story of the four best friends who rebuilt Lehman Brothers, vowing to be ‘the good guys of Wall Street,’ only to find themselves corrupted by the poisonous culture there. With its illicit affairs, treachery séances, boardroom backstabbing, and friendships and families torn apart, the book reads like a page-turning thriller. Who would guess that the story of life at Lehman would turn out to be even more dramatic than the firm’s headline-grabbing, economy-shaking demise?

— Arianna Huffington
cofounder and Editor in Chief of The Huffington Post

The Devil’s Casino is the totally compelling true story, deeply researched but as exciting as a thriller – the almost mythical saga of four friends destroyed by money, sex and ambition, with a cast of greedy larger-than-life Wall Street monsters, and an intimate history of the fall of Lehman. As exciting and important as Barbarians at the Gate, it’s a gripping portrait of American society and financial culture that explains much of what is happening today. I can already see the movie.

— Simon Sebag Montefiore
author of Stalin: The Court of the Red Tsar

The Devil’s Casino is more than a history of Lehman Brothers; it is a sage of four friends who were prepared to sacrifice everything—including each other—in the quest for money and power. The devil here is not in the details, but in the souls of the men who lost their moral compass while looking for the corner suite. Vicky Ward has written a superb social history that should serve as a warning and a reminder to all who work on Wall Street.

— Dr. Amanda Foreman
author of Georgiana: Duchess of Devonshire

Jacket Copy

They were the Rat Pack of Wall Street. Four close friends: one a decorated war hero, one an emotional hippie, and two regular guys with big hearts, big dreams, and noble aims. They were going to get rich and prove that men like them–with zero financial training–could more than equal the Ivy League-educated, white-shoe bankers who were the competition. They were going to create an institution for others like them–hungry outsiders–and they were going to win, but not at the cost of their souls.

In short, they were going to be the good guys of finance.

These four men were determined to rebuild the broken brand of Lehman Brothers, America’s oldest partnership, which had imploded in 1984 and was consumed by American Express and Shearson. For a decade or so, they drove into the office from the same middle-class town in Long Island at 4 a.m. They became known as the Huntington Mafia and the Ponderosa Boys.

At first, their unity and their grit were undefeatable. The men atop American Express and Shearson–supposedly their bosses–found they were no match for the defiant team spirit that confronted them in Lehman Commercial Paper Inc., which in 1990, became known simply as Lehman.

Under their watch, Lehman Brothers started to grow and became independent again in 1994. But, along the way, something went wrong. The men slowly, perhaps inevitably, changed. As Lehman Brothers grew, so too did the cracks in and among the men who had rebuilt it. Until it all came undone on September 15, 2008.

Investigative writer and Vanity Fair  contributing editor Vicky Ward takes you inside Lehman’s highly charged offices. You’ll meet beloved leaders who were erased from the corporate history books, but who could have taken the firm in a very different direction had they not fallen victim to infighting and their own weaknesses. You will encounter an unlikely and almost unknown Marcus Brutus, who may have had more to do with Lehman’s failings than anyone–including Dick Fuld, considered by many to be the poster child for the mistakes and greed of all bankers.

What Ward uncovers is that Lehman may have lost at the risky games of collateralized debt obligations, swaps, and leverage, but that was simply the tail end of a much bigger story. “Little Lehman” was the shop known to be forever fighting for its life and somehow succeeding. On Wall Street, it was cheekily known as “the cat with nine lives.” But this cat pushed its luck too far and died–the victim of men and women blinded by arrogance.

Come inside The Devil’s Casino  and see how good men lose their way, and see how a firm that rose with the glory and bravado of lcarus fell burning in flames–not as much from the sun, but from a match lit from within.