Two giant JPMorgan profiles landed this week, and it was a familiar character who delivered some of the more memorable lines in each of them. James Bainbridge Lee Jr.—better, Jimmy—is the legendary deal maker this paper once described as “the maestro of the syndicated loan market, Wall Street’s most famous corporate bailout artist,” now the vice chairman for investment banking at JPMorgan.
That position—and, we suppose, that he was willing to pick up the phone and go on record—made him a natural source for Vanity Fair’s profile of Jamie Dimon, in which Mr. Lee offers the first (and last?) word on the JPMorgan chief executive (“[He] has moral courage running through his veins”); and also serves as a catalyst for the tidbit VF used to hype the story—in the middle of the hubbub over the London Whale, Mr. Lee asked New England Patriots quarterback to tell Mr. Dimon “to hang in there.“Mr. Lee built his career at Chemical Bank, where he leveraged the bank’s lending relationships to win investment banking business, became a key figure in the syndicated loans and eventually, leveraged buyouts. Along the way, he happened to work alongside a particularly competent young trader named Ina Drew—which is how Mr. Lee also wound up providing our favorite anecdote in Susan Dominus’ 7,500-word New York Times Magazine write-around on JPMorgan’s former chief investment officer (and the woman who presided over the $5.8 billion trading loss that led to Mr. Dimon’s phone call with a Super Bowl MVP).
James Lee, who eventually became one of the biggest dealmakers on Wall Street, started out at Chemical Bank in New York sitting next to Ina Drew. He remembers talking to a client on the phone one day, trying to answer some questions about a deal the bank was proposing. “So I told the client what I thought, and I’m answering and answering, and I say, ‘So what do you think?’ ” Lee says. But there was no response. Lee looked at the phone and then looked around. Drew, a foot away, was in the middle of a different phone conversation, but her eyes were on him, and she was shaking her head back and forth — no, that’s not right — and waving her hand to show she had something in it: the phone jack. “She heard part of what I was saying, which was obviously incorrect,” Lee says. “She literally pulled the plug on me.”