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February 1, 2001

Hair Today, Gone Tomorrow: A Bald Six-Figure Stunt for Fr. Tom

By John A. Byrne

John Shaw was sane and still a sensible executive only days after he lost it all - the mature crop of dark brown hair on his kind and calculating head.

Shaw, president of Jefferies & Company, had it all shaved without protest, on the trading floor in the firm's midtown Manhattan offices, just after the 4 o'clock market close.

The barber who came up from downstairs may have thought the Wall Street bigshot was losing his marbles. Furgetaboutit.

Shaw was only thinking of how much money the stunt had raised for Fr. Thomas Thorne, pastor at the Roman Catholic Assumption Church in Westport, Conneticut.

"After the hair was cut, I said to myself, I look a lot worse than I did before but I feel great," said Shaw, who is donating the entire proceeds - most of the $109,750 pledged was received at press time - to Fr. Tom's Crisis Fund.

Dare

The hair-raising stunt - pun intended - was performed after a dare from a colleague of Shaw. He was initially offered $10,000, declined it, and then had the bid upped overnight to $100,000.

Donations initially came from 36 individuals at Jefferies.

"I had long hair for over 30 years and people were always saying, I need a haircut. It's good for your career," said Shaw, as the first blades of new hair shot up on his head. "I told them, I never cut it for my father and I am not going to cut it for you."

Shaw relented for Fr. Tom. He's a personal friend. And Shaw, a parishioner at the Assumption parish, is deeply impressed by Fr. Tom's Crisis Fund: providing shelter, rent money, insurance and other services for the needy in Westport and in poor surrounding areas.

Regrets? "Sure I get a bit of ballbusting but I can give it back," said Shaw, who has raised money over the years for charity but never sacrificed his manly mane until now.

"I was never the victim," he added with a chuckle. "That reminds me of the dunktank: Who is going to throw the ball at you?"

Shaw showed up at the mid-winter conference of the Security Traders Association of Chicago (STAC) and most people did not recognize him. That's where the crop - pun intended - thickens.

Historic

Scott Jones, Jefferies' director of equity sales had his head of hair shaved at the Chicago conference, raising just over $100,000 for St. Athanasius School in Chicago and the STAC Fund. The barber was Jeff Albright, a buyside trader at Wadell & Reed, a Jefferies account in Kansas City.

Something strange in the air? Maybe.

But John Shaw inspired a certain moment in Wall Street history.

* Photos: John Shaw before and after the big shave (opposite page); the big shave from start to finish (top to bottom); letter from satisfied client (above).