SUDDEN DEATH: The Rise and Fall of E.F. Hutton by Mark Stevens

SUDDEN DEATH: The Rise and Fall of E.F. Hutton

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A journalist's workmanlike and lively account of how the once-proud brokerage house E.F. Hutton & Co. came a cropper in the wake of the stock market's 1987 break. Donna Sammons Carpenter and John Feloni make a somewhat better job of conveying just why the securities firm lost its independence in The Fall of the House of Hutton (reviewed above). By contrast, Stevens (Power of Attorney, Land Rush, The Big Eight, et al.) spins a more colorful yarn. A skilled reporter and interviewer, the author focuses on individuals who played leading roles in determining the star-crossed concern's fate during the finale of its 84-year history (which he otherwise recounts in cursory fashion). Dominating the action in Stevens' psychodrama is sometime CEO Robert Fomon. A bibulous philanderer willing, even eager, to take risks, he transformed Hutton from a well-regarded if minor member of Wall Street's fraternity into an elite enterprise whose horizons seemed literally limitless. Fomon's feudal, freewheeling style proved unequal to the challenges of the 1980's, however. Under his loose rein, in fact, the firm spun out of control, becoming involved in a check.kiting scheme, incurring sizable trading losses, and otherwise blundering through an era that yielded most rivals record profits. Finally asked to step down by a timid board, Fomon was succeeded by Robert Rittereiser. A consensus-seeker, the Merrill Lynch alumnus was unable to command the respect of his own recruits, let alone the pampered gamesmen he inherited. Eventually, Hutton wound up on the bargain counter--where it was picked off by Shearson (an American Express subsidiary) toward yearend 1987 at no small cost to investors and lower-level employees. A brisk, anecdotal briefing on the passing of a consequential concern, which suffers. only modestly by comparison with the Carpenter/Feloni entry.

Pub Date: Aug. 23rd, 1989
Publisher: New American Library