Alan C. Greenberg scrapbooks and related material
Language of Materials
21 oversize volumes of documents tracing Alan C. "Ace" Greenberg's life and career from 1978, when he became the chief executive of the financial firm Bear Stearns, until his death in 2014. The contents range across three general subject areas: the U.S. financial markets landscape of the late 1970s-early 2000s and Greenberg's role in that market; Greenberg's philanthropic endeavors and related awards and recognitions; and Greenberg's social circles and personal interests. Also, an oral history transcript, a consultant's report about Bear, and drafts of a corporate history.
Biographical / Historical
Financial executive and philanthropist Alan Courtney "Ace" Greenberg was born September 3, 1927 in Wichita, Kansas. He was raised in Oklahoma City and briefly attended the University of Oklahoma on a football scholarship. An injury derailed his football career and he transferred to the University of Missouri where he earned his BA in business in 1949.
After graduating college, Greenberg moved to New York City where he joined the Wall Street firm, Bear Stearns, as a clerk, eventually moving to the arbitrage desk. He would remain with Bear for the rest of his career. Greenberg became partner in 1958 and was named chief executive and Chairman in 1978, succeeding Bear's longtime head Salim (Cy) Lewis. At the time, Bear was a private partnership with about 1000 employees and $46 million in capital. Greenberg took Bear public in 1985, one of the first Wall Street partnerships to do so. By 1993, when Greenberg relinquished the chief executive role, Bear had about 6300 employees and $1.8 billion of shareholders equity.
Greenberg continued as Chairman of Bear until 2001 when he "retired." He remained involved with the firm, both working with clients and as Chairman of Bear's Executive Committee responsible, in part, for overseeing the firm's financial risk exposure. Greenberg held this position into the 2008 market crisis, when Bear's exposure to "toxic waste" quality mortgage-backed securities ruined the firm. JPMorgan Chase acquired Bear, initially making it a division of the bank, but in 2010 dropping the name Bear Stearns altogether. Greenberg did well, having sold off much of his Bear stock before the crash and signing on with JPMorgan Chase as a Vice Chairman Emeritus, a position he held for the rest of his life.
Greenberg donated and raised hundreds of millions of dollars for various charities, including the United Jewish Appeal and the funding of scholarships and medical research. In 1987, Greenberg married Kathryn Adele Olson, a lawyer with Shea & Gould, and she appears prominently in this collection, particularly in connection with Greenberg's social engagements and philanthropic activities. Greenberg was a man of many talents and interests; he was a champion bridge player, did magic tricks (often for charity and the entertainment of children), and trained show dogs. He died of cancer in 2014.
The volumes in the collection advance in chronological order, as do the additional boxed documents.
The collection consists primarily of 21 oversize volumes of laminated pages of documents tracing Alan C. "Ace" Greenberg's life and career from 1978, when he became the head of Bear Stearns, until his death in 2014. Generally, the contents range across three subject areas: the U.S. financial markets landscape of the late 1970s-early 2000s and Greenberg's role in that market; Greenberg's philanthropic endeavors and related awards and recognitions; and Greenberg's social circles and personal interests, such as his competitive card playing.
The material on the financial markets center on Greenberg and Bear Stearns, with articles about him and the firm, quotations by Greenberg with market commentary, his and Bear's standing in relation to others in the financial industry, and the like. But there is also much not directly about Greenberg that both provides a broad view of Wall Street of the 1980s-2000s and that places him in that context. Program trading, rising executive compensation, the 1987 market crash, high profile trading scandals, and the 1990s Internet stock craze are among the many issues that appear here, as does the market crisis of 2008 and the collapse of Bear Stearns.
Greenberg's philanthropy and related recognitions are documented throughout the volumes, but especially so after his retirement in 2001 from a regular day-to-day role at Bear. Among the many examples are his 1989 Recognition of Goodness Award from the Jewish Foundation for Christian Rescuers (Volume 2), 1995 induction into the Oklahoma Hall of Fame (Volume 7), recipient of the 1997 Horatio Alger Award (Volume 9), and his 2003-04 funding of the launch of the Center for Skeletal Dysplasias at the Hospital for Special Surgery in NYC (Volumes 13-14). Greenberg's partner in many of his philanthropic initiatives was his wife, Kathryn, who appears throughout these volumes as well. References to Greenberg's abilities as a magician, playing bridge, training dogs for competition also appear throughout. Articles about his 1996 book "Memos from the Chairman" are in Volume 8.
Most of the content, especially with respect to Greenberg's career and the financial industry generally, consists of articles clipped from newspapers, journals, and magazines. Institutional Investor, The Economist, New York Times, Fortune, Wall Street Journal, and The New Yorker are just a few of the many sources of articles in the volumes. Greenberg's philanthropy is more commonly documented with announcements, invitations, photographs, letters of congratulations and thanks, and other such documents. Greenberg's social circles are reflected in letters found throughout the volumes from notable New York politicians, Israeli and Jewish-American leaders, and industry leaders; these are primarily courtesy notes, such as acknowledgements, congratulations, and expressions of gratitude. Real estate developer and future U.S. president Donald Trump is represented in the volumes with thank you notes (Volumes 5 and 7) and a 2004 invitation for Greenberg to appear on Trump's television show, "The Apprentice," which he accepted (Volume 14). Thank you notes from Trump's wives and future wives (Ivana Trump, Marla Maples, and Melania Knauss) are also found in the volumes. Other notable correspondents appearing at points in the volumes are Gloria Vanderbilt, Victor Borge, T. Boone Pickens, Ivan Boesky (Volume 1, thanking Greenberg for his support), and Walter Annenberg, among others. The demise of Bear Stearns elicits many letters of condolence and reminiscences (Volume 17). Volume 21 includes Greenberg's obituaries, eulogies, and other remembrances at his death in 2014.
In addition to the scrapbooks, there are five other documents, including a transcript of an oral history interview of Greenberg, a consultant's report about Bear, and drafts of a corporate history (listed in the container list).
Open to qualified researchers.
Conditions Governing Use
Photocopying undertaken by staff only. Limited to 20 exposures of stable, unbound material per day. Application to use images from this collection for publication should be made in writing to: Department of Rights and Reproductions, The New-York Historical Society, 170 Central Park West, New York, NY 10024-5194, email@example.com. Phone: (212) 873-3400 ext. 282.
Copyrights and other proprietary rights may subsist in individuals and entities other than the New-York Historical Society, in which case the patron is responsible for securing permission from those parties. For fuller information about rights and reproductions from N-YHS visit: https://www.nyhistory.org/about/rights-reproductions
This collection should be cited as the Alan C. Greenberg scrapbooks and related material, MS 3063, New-York Historical Society.
Location of Materials
Immediate Source of Acquisition
The volumes and the bookcases they are housed in were a gift of Kathryn Greenberg, 2018. An additional set of documents, housed in Box 1, were donated by Kathryn Greenberg in January 2021.
About this Guide
The collection was first described by archivist Larry Weimer in December 2019, with additions in January 2021.