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James Cayne, Who Ran the Ill-Fated Bear Stearns, Dies at 87



In 1969 — after being pressured by his future wife, Patricia Denner, to find a job — Mr. Cayne was hired as a junior broker at Bear Stearns in New York by Alan C. Greenberg, who would go on to become the firm’s chief executive and chairman.

Mr. Cayne’s skill at reading people — in card games or business meetings — helped him climb the ranks, though he was also known for his blunt manner and salty language. In 1988 he was named president of the bank, and in 1993 he was appointed chief executive, pushing Mr. Greenberg aside.

“He could be charming when he wanted to,” Mr. Greenberg wrote in “The Rise and Fall of Bear Stearns,” “and he certainly worked hard at cultivating a friendship with me.” In that book — published in 2010, four years before he died — Mr. Greenberg portrayed his successor as a bully who was hungry for money and status.

By contrast, Mr. Cayne won fierce loyalty from his supporters, including Alan Schwartz, who succeeded him in 2008 to become the final chief executive of Bear Stearns. Mr. Schwartz, who is now the executive chairman of the investment firm Guggenheim Partners, said in an interview that Mr. Cayne “had one of the most brilliant, most powerful minds I’ve ever interacted with.”


After his retirement from Bear Stearns, Mr. Cayne dedicated much time to bridge, which he was still playing online the week before his death. He won more than a dozen North American titles and also played in the world championships, his daughter Alison said.

In addition to her, he is survived by his wife; another daughter, Jennice Schenker; his sister, Merel; and seven grandchildren. His first marriage ended in divorce.

“He understood, at the end, that the buck stopped with him,” Alison Cayne said. “He made peace with the fact that he was not going to be able to change people’s perception of what happened.”

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