Tuesday, August 12, 2008

The View from Here

Last week, Wall Street lost it's most erudite spokesman when Michael Metz, the longtime market strategist at Oppenheimer & Co., passed away. Mr. Metz was best known as a bear on Wall Street, especially during the internet bubble, but for those of us who had the privilege of Mike's counsel as Oppenheimer employees, he was much more than a perma bear. I spent 10 years at Oppenheimer & Co. and while I valued his market observations, the thing I remember the most is that he was a true gentleman. Despite the abuse he took on CNBC from the cheerleaders during the internet bubble, Metz never responded in kind. He was always polite. He took his revenge by being quietly right.

I remember distinctly when it was announced that he was stepping down from the strategist post. Oppenheimer was owned by CIBC at the time and while Mike never complained about it, I always believed he was eased off the public stage for being too bearish. I also remember thinking at the time that if the last bear was being silenced, the top had to be near. Of course, Metz was right about the internet bubble, as he was about so many things. CIBC sold the firm soon after at a fire sale price to Bud Lowenthal at Fahnestock, proving once again that they had little concept of the value of Mr. Metz or the firm. It's been a while, but my recollection is that Mr. Lowenthal restored Metz to his old position as strategist, the first of what proved many good business decisions.

I will miss reading Mr. Metz' market commentaries. They were always wide ranging, interesting and thought provoking, although it was always a good idea to keep a dictionary at hand during the reading.

Michael Metz was a throwback to an earlier time on Wall Street when it was more important to be conservative with client's assets than to jump on the bandwagon of the latest fad. The view from here is that he can't be replaced and is already sorely missed. May he rest in peace.

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