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September 30, 2000

Wall Street's Super Ace' How a super trader from Oklahoma City, worked his way up from a humble c

By Sanford Wexler

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  • Wall Street's Super Ace' How a super trader from Oklahoma City, worked his way up from a humble c

If there were Olympic gold medals handed out for longevity, tenacity, and generosity on Wall Street, Alan Ace' Greenberg would have a roomful.

At 73, Greenberg, the colorful chairman of Bear, Stearns & Co., still works the trading floor. He is easy to spot. Greenberg is the husky, bald-headed guy with his shirtsleeves rolled up, smoking a Macanudo cigar, barking out orders like a five-star general.

Greenberg, who often speaks in a monosyllabic conversational style, said trading is like a game. "I do it for the same reason I play golf or bridge. I enjoy it," he said. "Even when the markets are down." (On the day this reporter visited Bear Stearns the Dow Jones Industrial Average was off 184 points.)

Prize View

Like many top Wall Street movers and shakers, Greenberg has a plush, executive suite with a fantastic view. But he hardly ever uses it. "I find being in an office very isolating," he said. "I like hearing people talk and waving to people as they go by." The veteran trader shouts out across the floor to a fellow trader, "Anything going on?"

Greenberg takes great pride in how easy it is to get in touch with the chairman of one of Wall Street's premier firms. "People do not have to call my secretary for an appointment," he said as he swiftly fielded one of the many incoming phone calls. Greenberg calls out to his executive assistant, Laura Schreiner, "Do they ever call you for an appointment?" She instantly fires back, "Never."

Born in Wichita, Kansas and raised in Oklahoma City, the son of the owner of a women's clothing store chain, Greenberg once dreamed of dashing across a football field rather than commanding a large trading and investment banking firm.

Upon graduating from high school in 1945, he attended the University of Oklahoma on a football scholarship. But while playing as a halfback in a game during his freshman year, Greenberg suffered a back injury. That put an end to his football career. A year later, in 1946, Greenberg transferred to the University of Missouri, where he received a bachelor's degree in business.

He gained the name Ace' during his college days. Greenberg confided to his good friend and then roommate, Alvin H. Einbender, who later became a chief operating officer at Bear Stearns, that he was having difficulty in getting dates. Einbender suggested that Greenberg change his name to Ace' Gainsboro. The nickname, Ace, stuck but Gainsboro was quickly scrapped.

Oklahoma Departure

Upon graduation in 1949, Greenberg moved from Oklahoma City to New York to start out his career on Wall Street. "I was a little too close to home," Greenberg recalled. "I wanted to go farther away. I wanted to become a success."

The 21-year-old, transplanted Mid-westerner landed a job as a clerk at Bear Stearns in the firm's oil and gas department. His salary was $32.50 a week. Four years later, at the age of 25, Greenberg was running the firm's arbitrage desk. In 1978, he was named chief executive.