Hi and welcome back to Semafor Business, a twice-weekly look at the world of big money from Bradley Saacks and me.
I was doing my biannual re-read of Barbarians at the Gate during a Christmas COVID-19 quarantine, as one does, and was struck by the larger-than-life investment bankers in the saga of the RJR Nabisco buyout: Drexel’s manic Jeff Beck, who ate an entire box of dog biscuits to impress a client; the ice-veined Tom Hill, who wore his Paul Stuart suits like a coat of armor; the unkempt Bruce Wasserstein, forever swearing he wasn’t the leak.
Today’s crop of M&A bankers is decidedly lacking in swagger. That’s not an indictment of their skills, or the narrative abilities of the reporters chronicling them (I hope — I’ve been one of them). It’s a reflection of today’s Wall Street, where ego is a liability, capital is a commodity, and legal bumper lanes guide most deals to the finish line. Today I dig into what happened and what it says about finance today.
Plus, U.S. home affordability hits a record low, central banks are about to raise interest rates to their highest levels since 2008, and banks start lending again, sort of.