What Was It Like Being Married to Lehman?


Well, it wasn’t easy. And by married to Lehman, we mean married to a Lehman banker, which, according to a new book was the same thing.

The April Vanity Fair has excerpts from Vicky Ward’s new book about Lehman, which is being released this month, chronicling the travails of Lehman’s “desperate housewives.”

Beyond the tabloid-like details about extra-marital affairs and posh vacations, “The Devil’s Casino: Friendship, Betrayal, and the High Stakes Games Played Inside Lehman Brothers” is interesting reading for how insular Lehman’s culture appeared – a fact that was cited in the New York securities firm’s inability to understand it was headed for trouble as the credit crisis unfolded.

According to Ward’s book, the wives were expected to stick with their husbands no matter what happened, though the husbands were expected by Lehman to place the firm’s business over family business. The wives visited each other’s homes to admire each other’s large shoe collections and attended the annual retreat at CEO Dick Fuld’s Sun Valley Idaho compound. If their husband was ousted from Fuld’s inner circle in the office, their wives dropped out of the social circle revolving around Fuld’s wife.

“For all the senior-executive wives, says one of them, there were “unwritten rules.” If you were married to a Lehmanite, you belonged to the firm…”

….Karin Jack knew what was required of her as her spouse rose in the company. “I mean, Brad (former Lehman chief operating officer) didn’t do one single thing for 20 years that wasn’t Lehman Brothers,” she recalls….As a Lehman wife, you raised your kids by yourself. You had your babies by yourself in the hospital. And then you were supposed to be happy and pretty and smiling when there was an event, and you really would have liked to strangle somebody,” she explains.”

But these women were no shrinking violets. The closer the wives were to Lehman office politics, the sooner they knew that their husband’s careers were in danger and they could help salvage them (or tell to head for the exits before they were demoted).

“As the firm’s dramas played out in the Lehman offices, they also played out among the wives. Many were as competitive as their husbands, and they ruthlessly criticized or exploited any perceived weaknesses of their rival,” Ward writes.

In tone, it reminds Deal Journal of another insular culture. “We always did everything together and we always were in the same crowd,” says Karen Hill, in the 1990 movie “Goodfellas,” who was married to a wiseguy. She adds in another scene, “It was more like Henry was enterprising and that he and the guys were making a few bucks hustling….And being together all the time made everything seem all the more normal.”