Jamie Dimon becomes billionaire ushering in era of the megabank

With JPMorgan Chase shares near a record high, CEO Jamie Dimon’s net worth is about $1.1 billion, according to the Bloomberg Billionaires Index.
With JPMorgan Chase shares near a record high, CEO Jamie Dimon’s net worth is about $1.1 billion, according to the Bloomberg Billionaires Index. Bloomberg

Jamie Dimon, who helped assemble Citigroup and then improved on the experiment with JPMorgan Chase, is responsible for two of the biggest banks the world has ever seen. His life’s work also made him rich.

With JPMorgan shares near a record high, Dimon’s net worth is about $1.1 billion, according to the Bloomberg Billionaires Index. Dimon’s fortune derives from a $485 million stake in New York-based JPMorgan, where he’s been chief executive officer since the end of 2005, and an investment portfolio seeded by proceeds from Citigroup stock sales.

Dimon’s status is unusual because, with the exception of former mentor Sanford “Sandy” Weill, few bank managers accumulate that much wealth. Most finance-industry billionaires start businesses or investment firms, such as hedge-fund tycoon George Soros, who is worth $28.5 billion, or Blackstone Group LP co-founder Steve Schwarzman, worth $13.4 billion.

“The odds are much, much lower for a bank CEO becoming a billionaire than a guy going to a hedge fund or private equity,” said Roy Smith, a professor at New York University Stern School of Business and a former Goldman Sachs Group Inc. partner who started on Wall Street in 1966. “The real lucre in this business has always been on the transactional side. The CEOs of Wall Street have to deal with litigation, regulation and the relatively short tenures you have at the top of the pile.”

Dimon, 59, took a different approach. Turning down job offers from firms including Goldman Sachs, he joined Weill at American Express Co. in 1982. The pair later gained control of Baltimore-based Commercial Credit, starting a takeover spree that spurred industry consolidation and culminated in the 1998 creation of Citigroup, then the world’s biggest financial- services firm.

“I joined Sandy Weill out of business school at American Express, I don’t regret that,” Dimon said in a talk in October. “I’ve had two companies. It’s kind of like, I put the jersey on, and that’s it. I’m not a hired gun, I’m not a hired hand.”

Joe Evangelisti, a spokesman for JPMorgan, said Dimon declined to comment about his wealth.

A brusque native New Yorker, Dimon helped execute Weill’s mergers and took increasingly important roles at the target companies, from president of Primerica Corp. to CEO of Smith Barney and president of Citigroup, becoming known for cutting costs and integrating systems.

Forced Out

Forced out by Weill in 1998, Dimon sold 2.3 million Citigroup shares after his exit, according to public filings, collecting an estimated $110 million before taxes.

The after-tax proceeds from that and other stock sales, dividends and about $115 million in salary since 1991 would be worth about $540 million if he invested the money in a blend of stocks, bonds, hedge funds, commodities and cash, assuming a weighted average annual return of 6.7 percent over the past 24 years, according to the Bloomberg Billionaires Index.

In his second act, Dimon became CEO of Chicago-based Bank One in 2000. He improved that lender’s balance sheet and profits and later sold it to JPMorgan, becoming the combined firm’s CEO at the end of 2005 and adding the chairman title the next year. The bank absorbed weakened institutions during the financial crisis and by 2011 had leapfrogged Citigroup and Bank of America Corp. to become the largest lender in the U.S. by assets.

Record Earnings

Under Dimon, JPMorgan has become what most analysts consider the best-run of the universal banks, which have both consumer banking and Wall Street operations. Unlike competitors, it remained profitable during the crisis and produced record earnings in four of the past five years. JPMorgan shares have climbed 66 percent since the end of 2005, when Dimon took the reins, outperforming the 87-company Standard & Poor’s 500 Financials Index, which fell 22 percent over the same period.

Dimon owns 6.1 million shares of JPMorgan valued at about $404 million based on Tuesday’s closing price of $66.02. He also has 3.2 million exercisable options worth more than $80 million, according to company filings. The Bloomberg net-worth calculation excludes unexercisable options, some restricted shares and $4.1 million in contributions he has made to the James and Judith K. Dimon Foundation. It also assumes taxes are paid at the highest rate.

Real estate holdings include a Westchester home and Park Avenue apartments valued at $32 million. The estimate is based on the 2006 purchase price of the 30-acre property in Bedford Corners, New York, and the current market value of his primary Park Avenue residence.

Dimon’s wealth – he was awarded $20 million in compensation for 2014 – and his criticism of regulators and adversaries has made him a lightning rod for those decrying income inequality and the existence of too-big-to-fail banks. Even a Dimon family holiday greeting card featuring the father of three swinging a tennis racket in a well-appointed apartment was lambasted in Time magazine as “tone deaf.”

Unbowed, Dimon is his industry’s most prominent defender, arguing repeatedly that megabanks with diverse revenue streams are safer than smaller firms. While JPMorgan’s performance during the crisis bolstered his case, the company has since racked up $36 billion in legal costs settling a litany of claims and pleaded guilty to a criminal antitrust violation last month.

Sometimes, Dimon couldn’t restrain himself. During a 2013 investor conference, Mike Mayo, a bank analyst at CLSA Ltd., suggested that well-heeled clients might prefer competitors over JPMorgan. “That’s why I’m richer than you,” Dimon said.