We’ve had a few things to say about Bear Stearns’s CEO James Cayne over the past few months. He also made it into the Finlay ON Governance Year End Awards. He was not a winner. Just earlier today, we suggested that standards were slipping so badly in America’s boardrooms that:
Maybe Jimmy Cayne’s sitting out a corporate crisis at Bear Stearns during a golf and bridge vacation last summer, and then doing whatever the Wall Street Journal reports he did involving a rather controversial tobacco substitute, will be seen as pretty innocuous.
Early this evening, we learned perhaps not so innocuous. Mr. Cayne will be leaving the top post. That’s a necessary move, but it’s still not a wise idea to have him (or any former CEO) retain his position as chairman of the board, which is Mr. Cayne’s plan. Maybe it will take a little while longer for Bear Stearns’s directors to learn that too.
You will read a lot about how Mr. Cayne was another victim of the subprime meltdown that has already claimed CEOs Charles O. Prince at Citigroup and Stanley O’Neal at Merrill Lynch. Such a conclusion would be inaccurate, in our view. Mr. Cayne was uniquely a victim of himself.