Twelve years ago, Jamie Dimon, quintessential New York banker, found himself in the heart of the Midwest. He had broken from mentor Sandy Weill—a true prodigal-son story, for the two were as close as father and son, with Mr. Weill grooming Mr. Dimon for succession even before there was an empire to inherit. Mr. Weill’s firing of Mr. Dimon, after they built Citi into the first real megabank together, sent shockwaves through the world of high finance and led to Mr. Dimon’s exile to Chicago, where he wound up atop Bank One.
Asked in the summer of 2001 how he felt about the Windy City, Mr. Dimon told us, “Chicago’s great, but I have three kids and a wife deeply ensconced in New York, and I was deeply ensconced and my parents were there and my sister-in-law was there and my brother was there.” In other words, heading the nation’s fifth-biggest bank in the nation’s third-biggest city was swell, but anyone who thought that would satisfy Mr. Dimon didn’t understand the nature of this born New Yorker.
In an era when bankers have eclipsed even lawyers as the embodiment of corporate bloodsucking, Jamie Dimon has led JPMorgan Chase, the nation’s biggest bank (by assets), through the financial crisis and earned widespread respect. Or at least as much as the public will afford a banker these days.
Mr. Dimon, a product of Queens, built his reputation as a master consolidator, managing portfolios and back offices through mergers and acquisitions without taking his eye off the ball. JPMorgan Chase avoided the pitfalls of many of its competitors in 2008 and adroitly used that crisis to acquire the troubled assets of Bear Stearns and Washington Mutual.
Mr. Dimon has demonstrated how a giant bank (and its CEO’s influence) survives in these turbulent times. He has been called both a favorite and a critic of the White House. His company took federal bailout money, but it also saved taxpayers billions by acquiring troubled assets. He took a cut in pay in 2012 after disclosure of the bank’s scandalous multibillion-dollar trading loss at the hands of a rogue trader delectably nicknamed “The London Whale,” but is still one of America’s most respected CEOs. Institutional Investor named Mr. Dimon to its “best CEOs” list from 2008 to 2011 and as CEO of the Year for 2011; he also sits on the board of the Federal Reserve Bank of New York.