“Lehman Brothers is not afraid of risks. The biggest risk sometimes is to take no risk at all.” So said Robert Lehman, who for many decades ran the company that his father had founded in 1850 as a cotton trading operation but grew to become the fourth-largest investment bank on Wall Street.
Lehman junior might just as easily have been referring to the attitude of dozens of former Lehman employees, who have gone on successfully to set up their own businesses following its bankruptcy in 2008 at the nadir of the financial crisis.
Mass layoffs and market chaos followed the now infamous collapse of Lehman, which triggered the worst banking crisis the world had experienced for almost 80 years. Investors’ money was wiped out. From what remained, Barclays bought Lehman’s US investment banking and trading business, while Nomura acquired the company’s European and Asian franchises. However, many of Lehman’s top people who had already left in the bank’s final years or in the aftermath of its collapse decided to strike out on their own.
The result is the dawn of a generation of entrepreneurs who have risen from the carnage. These include former Lehman executives who have founded private equity firms JRJ Group and Trilantic Capital Partners, corporate finance boutiques Ondra Partners and Noah Advisors, and a swath of other businesses outside finance.
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