Former Bear Stearns CEO Jimmy Cayne dead at 87

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Jimmy Cayne, the former Bear Stearns chief executive who became infamous for playing bridge and reportedly smoking marijuana rather than keeping an eye on the financial behemoth he ran, died Tuesday at 87, The Post has confirmed.

Cayne’s daughter Alison Cayne confirmed his death, but declined further comment.

Cayne led the investment bank, trading and brokerage firm from 1993 until he left the helm in 2008 as it faltered amid the financial crisis.

Under Cayne, Bear Stearns in 2007 at one point swelled to the fifth-largest securities firm before nearly going bankrupt in 2008. At its apex in 2007, Bear’s stock was $170 per share, with Cayne hauling in $40 million a year.

But Cayne’s leadership came under scrutiny near the end of 2007 as reports emerged he’d spent vast stretches of time away from the office pursuing hobbies including bridge and golf as key elements of the business teetered. He also was dogged by reports in the Wall Street Journal that he smoked marijuana recreationally — something he denied.

In the final quarter of 2007, Bear hemorrhaged cash — reporting an $854 million loss as its bets on the subprime mortgage market faltered.

Longtime deputy Alan Schwartz replaced Cayne as CEO and Cayne was appointed chairman in January 2008.

In March 2008, when Bear managed to hatch a deal for JPMorgan to buy its struggling business, Cayne was yet again away from the office — playing cards at a bridge tournament in Detroit. The US government backed the deal that sold Bear to JPMorgan for $10 per share.

jimmy cayne
Cayne’s leadership came under scrutiny as reports emerged he’d spent vast stretches of time away from the office.
Bloomberg via Getty Images

Even though Cayne’s Wall Street days ended on a sour note, his early days in finance were marked by success. Cayne, born and raised in Illinois, struggled to find employment after dropping out of college.

He worked as a cab driver and a copier salesman before moving to New York City where he aimed to play bridge professionally. While his bridge career didn’t take off, Cayne did secure a job as a municipal bond salesman at Lebenthal & Co.

A few years into his time at Lebenthal, Cayne met former head of Bear, Alan “Ace” Greenberg, who hired him as a broker, where Cayne spent the rest of his career.

After leaving Bear, Cayne spent his final years playing bridge competitively — and winning multiple championships.

Cayne is survived by his wife, two daughters and seven grandchildren.

With Post wires

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