Tuesday, December 2, 2008


October 7, 2002
I hate Mondays..

It was 7:14 am on Monday morning when the private line on the IPC trading desk phone turret started ringing, just as I was getting ready to enter my firm’s daily morning meeting; a dawn-breaking ritual that brought together the 100 traders, salesman and research analysts that comprised RTM Securities, one of the leading junk bond boutiques on Wall Street. I was one of five Managing Directors; I had been recruited by the two senior partners eighteen months earlier, and I was made “partner” less than six months later.

At the age 43, I was a Wall Street veteran with the badges and scars to prove it, but I was dubbed the firm’s “fair-haired boy” because I served as major domo to Bobby Sonnenfeld, the firm’s tyrannical Founder/CEO, along with being the institutional sales and marketing guru, and the resident consigliore on venture capital investing,, electronic trading, and technology.

As I was about to reach for the phone, a queasy feeling in my gut indicated that it wasn’t going to be good call. It was too early for a business call; the people I did business with were in their own morning meetings, and it was a Monday; a day of the week that I’ve dreaded since the time I was in college. Nothing good has ever happened to me on Mondays, and in fact, almost every calamity that I’ve experienced has happened on that particular day of the week. And Mondays in October have always been the worst, as most of my career has revolved around the financial markets, a world within itself that has an infamous history for upending events on Mondays, especially in the month of October.

I glanced at my silver and gold Rolex, a gift from parents when I turned 21, and checked the time against the digital display on my phone to confirm that I had less than twenty seconds to take the call and dash into the meeting. If I walked in a second past 7:15, I risked being publicly lambasted for tardiness by Bobby, a real stickler for the smallest details. I took a deep breadth, and picked up the hand set. All I had to hear was the familiar, but now trembling voice say “Josh, are you there?” to know that my instincts were right.. It was Lorna.

We’d been together since our junior year in college, almost twenty five years; a miraculous accomplishment given the fact that many yuppie generation marriages had tended to flounder after a child was introduced into the equation. Over the years, and mostly due to the pressures of my trying to maintain a standard of living that was above our means, we’d become pretty much estranged as husband and wife. Thanks to a silver spoon upbringing, and training from my Mom, a former debutante that lives inside of a Baccarat Bubble in Boca Raton, and whose motto seems to have always been “why spend less when you can spend more?”, I had spoiled Lorna with a heady lifestyle at the very outset. But, between some bad luck and bad decisions, the Yuppie dream ship had started to spring leaks, creating lots of tension and angst.

It wasn’t supposed to be that way, as the boat that I first set sale on was a cruise ship.

As seemed customary in the days when I was growing up, I was shepherded to Boca Raton during winter vacations, and spent my summer months at four-star sleep away camps in the Adirondecks, while my parents golfed and entertained at their country club.

In almost a decade, my resume had become as colorful as a box of Crayola crayons, but with each post more high profile than the previous one.

I’d have six jobs in three different industries, including a crisis management stint for an offshore insurance company whose owners didn’t believe in paying out on claims, and who were eventually chased down by at least two different state attorney offices; co-founding an internet start-up that changed the way bonds are traded in the inter-bank market, but was funded by an venture capital firm whose partners were former Merrill Lynch bond salesman that had a tendency to play hide the banana in the course of getting SBA funding for their deals.

There was also one “turnaround situation” where the same gang-that-couldn’t invest straight recruited me to become interim CEO of a publicly-traded entertainment company that operated two of the biggest tourist destinations in New York. This time, someone else was being even more creative with other people’s money. The working capital provided by the VC firm was being pillaged by a company management team that perfected the art of skimming from the cash register, and whose CEO built himself a private spa, including a steam room within his 1000 square foot office.

The VC’s had already concluded that I was a talented guy, as I had played an integral role in not only building, but also in selling the ecommerce company they had funded from start-up. I had proved myself to be better than most at overcoming obstacles, so they inserted me into the job of fixing one of their problems.

And all of these experiences led to an ever-evolving relationship I had with the senior partner of Knoll Associates, the crème de la crème of corporate gumshoes. What had started as a casual friendship with my buddy, the Dad of one of Charlie’s childhood playmates when we had first moved to Westport, had become a relationship that not only included a strong family tie, but over the years, a trusted business relationship. Given the situations I found myself in, I had found it necessary to retain his firm on several occasions, and as the other partners of the firm got to know me, they had likewise enlisted me as a private consultant to assist their financial industry practice, which necessarily included the need for people that had relationships and access to Wall Street.

However slowly and however tenuously, I had re-gained my footing and established a formidable reputation as a creative problem solver and someone that was skilled at leveraging business opportunities. Through hard work and relationship building, I had secured progressively higher profile jobs, and built up a rolodex of private numbers belonging to senior Wall Street executives, top gun venture capitalists, and private investors having net a worth of at least eight figures.

Along the way I had also encountered more than my share of intriguing and very creative characters. Some were simply very shrewd and accomplished businessmen, others were out and out scammers, and some were downright unsavory. And there were a few that were more than just unsavory. But, despite the obstacles, including trying to live within a dysfunctional family situation, the house of cards was up and relatively intact. Until the call from Lorna.

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