Big Deal Leader – Jamie Dimon – Has a Big Bad Week

Billionaire businessman Jamie Dimon is a Master of the Universe. He has been chief executive officer of JP Morgan Chase, the biggest of America’s four biggest banks, since 2005. And he is among the most powerful, and widely recognized of all America’s chief executives. This week though has been a bummer for Dimon. By week’s end he was badly embarrassed, his reputation certainly somewhat tarnished.

The slide started slowly. In fact, one could argue that early last week, when JPMorgan announced it planned to improve working conditions for those among its junior ranks, it was doing no more than doing good. But anyone who paid close attention knew that JPMorgan was not being suddenly magnanimous. Rather it was responding to pressure from below.

Five years earlier, JPMorgan had made a similar gesture, promising to ameliorate the hellishly demanding work lives of its younger bankers. But nothing much had changed. The reforms that were promised were never enforced. Why exactly? Because of the bank’s own, admitted, “laziness.”  So, this week, this time in response to angry complaints coming from those in Wall Street’s junior ranks, JPMorgan vowed once again to change its ways. In a major concession Dimon’s minions promised, for instance, to encourage all bankers to go home by 7 pm; to “force” bankers to take at least three weeks vacation every year; and to require group heads frequently to check on their subordinates “to find out what is working.”

Had Dimon’s backtracking ended there it would’ve been one thing. But it did not. For it was revealed later in the week that Dimon was a central player in one of the biggest fiascos – and abject humiliations – the world of sport has ever seen.  

In a letter to JPMorgan shareholders sent early this month Jamie Dimon wrote that “businesses must earn the trust of their customers and communities by acting ethically and morally.” He went on to add that “To a good company, its reputation is everything. That reputation is earned day in and day out with every interaction.” Did he read his own letter? Remember what he himself ostensibly had written? It would appear no. And it would appear no.

Plans for the European Super League – touted as football’s (soccer’s) future – were announced last Tuesday. By last Thursday, 48 hours later, the deal had collapsed. No, it crashed… spectacularly. I will have more to say about this in a subsequent post. Here I will simply point out that had the plan been realized, JPMorgan Chase stood to enormously to profit. Not just now, in the moment, but for the duration of the deal, which was 23 years. For in its original incarnation, it was as The Guardian put it, “probably one of the most lucrative sports financing deals in history.”

For the second time in less than a week, Dimon was obliged to kowtow. Not personally, of course. This time an anonymous spokesperson for the bank issued a short statement that read “We clearly misjudged how this deal would be viewed by the wider football community, and how it might affect them in the future. We will learn from this.”

In the shareholder letter referred to earlier, Dimon wrote, “We take great pride in being a responsible citizen at the local level – just like the local bakery.” Really, Jamie?  

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