New York -- James "Jamie" Dimon tramped through the rain and strode into the headquarters of Bear Stearns Cos. Wednesday evening, the embattled investment bank he hopes to buy for a mere $2 a share.
More than 400 Bear executives - seething, fearful and to their dismay, far poorer than they were a week ago - were waiting for him.
Only days after his controversial deal for the beleaguered investment bank stunned Wall Street, Dimon, the chairman and chief executive of JPMorgan Chase & Co., made an appearance at Bear Stearns, hoping to win over executives who have vowed to fight his offer. Dimon left many of them as angry and resentful as he found them.
"I don't think Bear did anything to deserve this," Dimon said. "Our hearts go out to you."
"No one on Wall Street could have anticipated this," he continued. "I feel terrible sometimes when people think we took advantage. I don't think we could possibly know what you all are feeling, but I hope that you give JPMorgan a chance."
Over the next 45 minutes, Dimon made it clear that he hoped to retain the best employees at Bear but also made it plain that many of Bear's 14,000 employees will lose their jobs as a result of the deal, struck at the urging of the Federal Reserve and the Treasury Department.
JPMorgan executives plan to cull one Bear employee after another, while keeping the best performers, as they move to integrate the two firms.
Many of the executives whom Dimon faced, all of whom own Bear shares, pledged to fight the deal in hopes of luring a better offer from a rival bank, a prospect that, for now, seems distant. Even so, Joseph Lewis, the largest shareholder of Bear, said in a securities filing Wednesday that he would take "whatever action" necessary to protect his stake, including seeking out another suitor.
"In this room are people who have built this firm and lost a lot, our fortunes," one Bear executive said to Dimon with anger in his voice. "What will you do to make us whole?"
The packed room of senior managing directors applauded.
Dimon responded gingerly. "You're acting like it's our fault, and it's not. If you stay we will make you happy."
But the Bear employee was not satisfied. "I think it's galling you come into our house and you call this a `merger,' " the Bear executive went on.
This time, Dimon was silent.
But Dimon, ruddy-faced and sharply dressed in a light blue tie and white shirt, told the executives that those of them who stay might receive at least 25 percent of the value of their recent Bear stock awards in the form of JPMorgan shares. Those who stay until the deal closes will receive a one-time cash payment. Dimon urged them not to blame Bear's management, the government or JPMorgan for their circumstances.
Alan D. Schwartz, Bear's chief executive, looking pale, summed it up. "We here are a collective victim of violence," he said, his voice cracking. "It's natural to be angry, and you're not sure who to be angry at. But we have to put it behind us."
A few Bear executives urged colleagues to accept Dimon's offer.
"I've been here for more than 20 years," one said. "This deal cost me big time. But if there wasn't a deal, we'd be toast."
Since the deal was reached Sunday night, JPMorgan executives have tried to characterize the situation at Bear as business as usual. It is, however, anything but.
Inside Bear, it is already clear that the new bosses have arrived. On Wednesday, a JPMorgan security guard stood watch at Bear's entrance. JPMorgan executives have appropriated offices for private meetings and begun placing calls from the desks of Bear executives.
JPMorgan bankers are already calling most of shots on Bear's trading floor. Some Bear executives remained in charge of the risks the traders were taking.
Bear traders are shellshocked. In the past days there have been several instances when Bear traders and businessmen have lashed out at the JPMorgan executives, creating awkward moments. The greeting on the Bloomberg e-mail screen of one reads: "BSC Credit Sales for a little while."
"Never in my wildest dreams did I believe we would be sold for $2," one employee said.