The Wall Street Power Lunch Is Back, With Martinis and Impunity

One era of conspicuous dining ended, but another soon began. “These people have money,” one restaurant owner said. “Don’t forget that part.”


Comments: 63

  1. I've frequented the old Four Seasons and have participated in the great debate - Pool Room vs. Grill Room. I've yet to visit the new location nor pre-selected my preferred table, but I expect the same faces - mostly portly, unattractive men who look like they can't throw the football so well despite their ability to spend shareholder money on overpriced food and drink.

  2. @Bill And often accompanied by disconcertingly young and attractive women.

  3. I believe it's erroneous to credit (discredit...) Bruce Wasserstein with pioneering the hostile takeover bid.

    I did not attend an MBA program and I have no idea who they say pioneered it. I say it was Louis E. Wolfson and I assume not many biz schools would disagree. Playing safe, perhaps, Time Magazine, in 1956, said he was one of the first to pioneer it. For now, I'll continue to assume that he originated it.

  4. @Publius
    My father was a high executive at Montgomery Ward & Co., Sears' biggest competitor, when former scrap metal dealer (who profited off WW2) Wolfson launched a hostile takeover campaign to get his hands on the $400 Million cash hoard the company then had. Wolfson defined the term "Corporate Raider". He lost that campaign, but he made the template.
    BTW, I well recall that my dad and other execs went to the big stockholders begging them (mutual funds were non-existent then) not to vote for Wolfson.

  5. Very sad to read about the fall of Dick Fuld. He paid the price for investing in the worthless mortgage bonds created by slicing and dicing mortgages-- securitization (this garbage was given Triple-A by the rating agencies) and helping distribute this garbage over the globe. So he joined the millions who lost almost all they had---jobs, homes, assets---the not-so-rich class who became poorer, as the wealth gap widened. Fuld was unique as most of the purveyors of these zero-value securities came out of it richer than before. Government bail out of the wealthy did it. Only a handful of business leaders suffered the consequences or their deceitful and rash actions.

  6. There'e nothing new under the Sun; it's a familiar passage in the rise and fall of the tides. There's no crowd brandishing torches and pitchforks outside the Four Seasons. The junior employees, wearing fleece vests with their company's logo on it, rush to buy their lunch from the sandwich trucks on 52nd St, and then hurry back to their desks to show the Boss how hard they're working--perhaps next quarter's bonus will be a smidgeon higher ! One warning, gentlemen (little chance of being gender exclusive) : today's martinis are much larger than the ones our fathers used to drink back in the 50's & 60's

  7. First we are told that Mr. Niccolini recalls the “drink choices of Pete Peterson.” Then we are told, “the only people who didn’t drink were Mr. Peterson and Mr. Schwarzman.” Which is it? And while the Pool Room was indeed tall and spacious, it did not have a “cathedral ceiling.” I will leave it to others to sort out the ideological incentives for perpetually rehashing the myth and lore of this notably mediocre (but that was the point; the diners were the attraction) restaurant. But let’s at least get the basic story correct.

  8. @Olmsted "drink" doesn't necessarily mean alcohol.

  9. As we have stated before ... " Business as usual".

    As said on T.V.: "After the break, we'll be back with ... Moe Lunches!" (paraphrased, of course)

  10. Gross. No wonder our country is in shambles. These people - and their ilk across the nation - are in charge, regardless of the political party nominally in control, and their only interest lies in personal power, wealth, and prestige. Jefferson's 100-year revolution is almost 150 years overdue.

  11. Trickle down works! It really works! If the wealthy are never prosecuted for greed crimes against the common man, and the wealthy receive welfare through bailouts, and then receive tax cuts once they are making huge bonuses, well, then, as the article states, trickle down keeps poor restaurateurs in business.

  12. @NoDak

    Tricke down is also known as "Eat the crumbs from my table."

  13. It should have been jail for these thieves and swindlers, not power lunches and martinis.

  14. @Ignatz Farquad

    Agree. but such is the 'system' Which will never change. 2008 meet 2018. As long as there is wealth in the trough, there will be pigs feeding on it. Don can take credit for it now

  15. Mark Rothko got it right when he pulled his murals at the original restaurant because he didn't want his work looking down on pigs feeding at the trough.

    I'm sure Traitor Trump would be welcome here with Julian fawning all over him.

  16. Really? The only restaurateur worth interviewing is a man with a sexual assault conviction - only a couple of years old - whose main concern is about someone coming in with sneakers because “It's still Park Avenue, believe it or not”? I expect more of the NYT, especially considering all the great work it’s other journalists are doing on this front.

  17. @Chris - there was a definite subtext of criticism in this piece, it wasn't explicit is all. Don't you realize that Mr. Niccolini opened the paper today expecting to see a puff piece on the return of the power lunch only to see his sexual proclivities mentioned three times (once with links)? This wasn't a slam but there was definitely a backhand involved.

  18. The human response to seeing vast amounts of desirables within their reach is to take all that they can. It’s portrayed in the popular media with Lucy Ricardo on a chocolate factory line stuffing chocolates in her mouth, frantically. When the heads of the big banks met with the government reps during the financial crisis they lamented over their excessive risk taking but later wailed in horror at the restrictions upon that same risk taking imposed by the government and ever since. Just like Lucy.

  19. Lucy Ricardo was stuffing chocolates in her mouth because the conveyor belt was moving too fast and she was trying to do her job. That scene was hilarious. It had nothing to do with greed.

    Please don’t try to ruin one of the classic scenes of American comedy. If anyone has not seen that episode, it’s worth finding

  20. I agree, my recollection was wrong.

  21. If after the next time we do not make sure these thieving pigs aren't dining in prison we deserve to loose another $75 000 on average per person... yes that's 75 + 000

  22. @Dart
    Total Financial and Real Estate wealth lost per capita during the Great Recession was about $24 Trillion -- that's the $75,000 referred to above -- roughly $12 trillion less financial wealth and $12 trillion less real estate wealth. Total Financial wealth has more than tripled. Nearly all went to the top 10 percent, the top 1%, and most of all to the top 1% of the 1% -- about 10,000 households have $100+ million more financial wealth.

    Those 10,000 households did not SHARE their wealth with the rest of us. Because we reduced income taxes for them and reduced government services and benefits for everybody else, they TOOK wealth from the rest of us.

    Half the people in the USA had less than $5000 combined in savings and in the stock market in 2007. They got NOTHING from the rise in the stock market.

    Most Americans' wealth is tied up in their homes. 60% of home owners have more equity than in 2007, before the crisis began. 20% have recovered to where they were. The bottom fifth, home owners in older cities and suburbs have less. Half of them, the bottom tenth, have much less; some homes in Detroit are worth 40% (or less) than in 2007.

  23. I'm glad Andrew Sorkin wrote this piece. We all know that nothing has happened to the money grubbers, the people who speak in hushed voices about their god of greed. But it's good to have it right in front of us.
    A lot of these bankers, hedge fund people call themselves social liberals, but fiscal conservatives. In truth, they are cut from almost the exact same cloth as Donald Trump. They're just more articulate and self-controlled. Oh, they might believe in climate change while Trump pretends not to, but they all worship the same thing. Money.
    Maybe their $30 million dollar homes are more tastefully decorated than Trump's, but it's all the same god. The gold one. Maybe they read and have an intellectual bent, so they can laugh at Trump. We're cultured and he's not.
    Still, they all loved those tax cuts for corporations and for themselves. Jamie Dimon, you can protest all you want, but you are just a more refined, well-behaved Donald Trump.
    How revolting.

  24. @SCZ

    You may find of interest -- or you may have seen it already -- Bill Maher's show from 9/14, where Steve Ballmer was one of the guests. He was quite entertaining, even likable. Clearly much, much harder to despise than Trump and his cronies. I wonder what you would think. (I have trouble reconciling.) A quick excerpt:
    “Does anyone need $40 billion?” Maher asked.

    “Not to live on,” Ballmer laughed.

    “But should anybody have $40 billion?” Maher said. “FDR once proposed not just a minimum wage, but a maximum wage.”

    Ballmer reiterated his plans to give away a large chunk of his money, with a focus on kids and poverty. Steve and Connie Ballmer focus on economic mobility for children and families through their Ballmer Group philanthropy. But he wouldn’t bite on Maher’s insistence that millions or billions would make a huge difference politically and could help unseat President Trump.

    “For my morals, I’m not buying elections. I’m just not doing it,” Ballmer concluded.

    https://www.geekwire.com/2018/steve-ballmer-sticks-usafacts-wins-fans-in...

  25. Mr. Niccolini is "still" the one that knows the heartbeat of New York. He also understood that the mere multi-millionaires, uptown money, doctors, lawyers and enterprise builders of the world loved the Four Seasons. They got the same duck as the Wall Street gang and always tipped the terrific staff because the regulars were recognized with familiarity and warmth. Nothing was left to chance and the restaurant was as reliable as Big Ben. Now, the new location on Park Avenue will be the center of the universe and the Wall Street newbies will rub shoulders with the famous and all others but they have one thing in common: $.

  26. “It is essential that Big Shots bend their elbows to prime a Trickle Down Economy.”

    John Maynard Reagan

  27. Wonder if Eric Holder, former attorney general,
    ever visit four seasons restaurants to see
    his old buddies whom he didn't prosecute.
    Probably Ben Bernarke drops in, who
    opened the window for these people to borrow
    and even get the interest paid by the Fed. They
    got the free money, speculated in stock market
    and received huge bonuses to spend freely
    at Four Seasons. Every body gets the opportunity
    here even the crooks.

  28. Stop catering to the 1%.

  29. @JamesLBelcher:
    You are not talking about the 1% but more the 0.01%

    And why should he stop?

  30. So happy, and relieved, to find out that the financial moguls are once again sipping their perfect martinis and enjoying their $1,000. lunches at the “new” Four Seasons plutocratic hangout. Ah, order has been restored in the universe once more, at least until these money and investment manipulators wreck the entire economy once again. I assume that with the tax cut largesse of their grateful Republican Congress and White House occupant, the tips to the restaurant’s staff will be more generous than ever! MAGA.

  31. Hey shimr of Spring Valley, NY,
    Save your tears for this greedy miscreant. A quick google search turned up this...

    How much is Richard Fuld worth?
    Richard Fuld net worth and salary: Richard Fuld is an American banker who has a net worth of $250 million. Richard "Dick" Fuld, was born in New York City, NY in April 1946. He is best known as the final Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of Lehman Brothers.

  32. It kind of has to be this way.
    Whatever you want in life other people will want too.
    Believe in yourself enough to accept the idea you have an equal right to it.
    Much easier said than done, but please do not be jealous of Wall Street. I am sure most worked very hard to get there.

    Mark Schroepfer
    Real Estate Salesperson
    MINNESOTA

  33. @Mark Schroepfer You clearly have not spent much time on Wall Street or with Wall Streeters. Most got there through luck, connections, greed, and flexible ethics.

    Or maybe you mean that it has too be this way because we will always have rich egotistical jerks among us.

  34. Amen brother!

  35. @Mark Schroepfer

    OK they worked hard to get there. So did Trump. When did hard work entitle you to such a huge slice of the pie. Get rid of deductions and raise taxes on the million dollar incomes. Let some more money trickle down to majority otherwise Trump and Bernie or worse will be there to reap the anger. Trump hasn't yet done much for his voters but if he does just a bit he'll likely be a two term president

  36. The danger is not from the 90% of financial types lunch at the Four Seasons - and have done so for 40 years.

    The danger is from those who "want you to know they have a lot of money," many of whom are too young to have worked through the last financial crisis and who may not have been born for the setbacks of the early 90s.

  37. As Mr Niccolini said, it’s all about status and perceived power. It always has been, since cavemen wanted to wear a nicer animal skin than the others. These people, while sometimes very intelligent, are truly ruled by their reptile brain and can only be taught manners in the most brutal fashion. A periodic “elimination of the class” will result in a period of better behavior. But don’t be deceived, the class will rise again because we all have a reptile brain, some better controlled than others.

  38. "The unspeakable in pursuit of the inedible."

    Oscar Wilde was commenting on fox hunting, but the analogy applies here as well, I think

  39. @crowdancer Try the duck

  40. “You know what that means? They are saying: ‘I have more money than you. I have more power than you. I am in charge,’” he said.

    Sickening people.

  41. If you are tempted to spend $1000 on a bottle of wine, don't. Drink water and give the $1000 to charity.

  42. The money people are behaving the same way they did before the last crash... what could possibly go wrong.

  43. I believe this piece is primarily about how little things have changed, or not changed at all, since the financial meltdown of 2008, among the very people who helped cause it, from the perspective of someone, however compromised, who has a front row seat to some of their most telling behaviors (and probably more than he's willing to admit). In that sense there is something of Greek tragedy about it. Mr. Sorkin is part of the chorus. Too bad the very people who need to heed the warning signs are unable or unwilling to listen. Do I feel sorry for them? Of course not. There is such a thing as free will and any of these people could change, if they wanted to. The incentives to do so must not be appealing enough.

  44. Rather sad.

  45. @Mind boggling

    Rather sickening :(

  46. I voted for Obama twice. But, I cannot ever forgive him and Eric Holder for failing to send "Wall Street criminals" to jail.

    All they did was "fine" them, money mostly paid by the corporation (read "little institutional shareholders"). Obama even hired Geitner, right out of Goldman Sachs, to provide advice and guidance (read: watered down regulations, and no jail for his Wall Street colleagues).

    The rise of the Tea Party, the rise of Bernie Sanders, the election of Trump, and now the rise of young socialists, ALL are (potentially destabilizing) consequences of the actions not taken by Obama and Holder. The people are angry and they veer from Right to Left trying to find an elusive Savior.

    Like with Enron, the Savings and Loans scandal and others, we, the people, needed to see at least a little justice, some perp walks and convictions.

    But, Holder had spent a lifetime being a lawyer to corporations and the .01%. We were idiots to have such "HOPE" in Obama.

    Does anyone think Geitner, nor Holder, were going to do anything but help their rich friends and clients? I, idiotically, thought better of brilliant Obama.

  47. @Lily
    I also voted for Obama twice. I still hold him in high regard.

    I think, on the anniversary of the crisis, NYT might do a retrospective on why no one went to jail.

    Recently much attention has been given to Trump's tweets to Sessions telling him to investigate this or that or fire some designated victims. There has been considerable criticism of these tweets on the ground that Justice should remain independent. Is this the reason that Obama did not telephone Holder and tell him to start prosecuting?

  48. I had what could be called an entry level job at LIFE magazine in 1965 when I was 22. The bosses took us "girls", sometimes referred to as one boss's "dancing girls" out to lunch from time to time, including at The Four Seasons. The bosses drank a couple of martinis. We didn´t. I don´t even think we had wine. We were accustomed to hands and words and more. For awhile everything swung to the other extreme: absolutely no drinks. People obviously still touched. But it really doesn´t seem like much has changed since 1965.

  49. my girlfriend and i had lunch at the four seasons in the early 70's. we had a long island seafood platter and then i had veal with salsify. don't remember what she had. i was highly gratified when someone came into the pool room holding a phone.."paging joseph e. levine."

    everybody had more money than me.

  50. My esteemed colleague Wewe Kutomba suggests: "Y'all is just plain jealous"(over the lunches).

  51. After 3 martinis no one cares what the food tastes like.

  52. The next bubble to pop will be in Silicon Valley where millennials and their unread overseers routinely spend $1000 on a casual Tuesday lunch. And they've never seen a capital cycle. Tears will be flowing. But they'll be wearing jeans and flip flops so it'll have none of the dignity of a Wall Street down cycle.

  53. People can discuss business at joints like the Four Seasons or at McDonalds or without eating .
    If people want to waste their money that is their business.
    I don't know what the law is now but businesses should not be able to deduct one penny from their taxes for the cost of a "business" lunch.

  54. And I presume the thousand dollar omelettes are back.

  55. What is has changed now..it is the women who are the Masters of the Universe.

    No kidding...

  56. @Financier Guru
    Women are Masters of the Universe??? Because all the CEO's of the money center banks are women? Get real. Or was this intended as satire?

  57. Our species is primitive. Is there an equivalent to this in the animal kingdom?

  58. I enjoyed a power lunch, not with martinis, at the old Four Seasons several years before the collapse, i think it was The Grill. I will not visit the new location. I will still drink martinis, gin from a blue bottle, up, stirred and with extra olives. This says a lot to me and basically it is not good. I know that Tom Wolfe wrote a scathing novel about this and do wish he were still around to right an updated version. The financialization of the AmeriKan economy has been a disaster for most people.

  59. It is "getting much worse" because Donald Trump is the POTUS!

  60. thank you for encapsulating in one short article all that is wrong with New York. Hey Julian, perdition catch thy soul..

  61. Time for a toast to the au courant four-martini lunch (actually three when factored for inflation).
    Now please raise your glass to an era of even more vanity, power, greed & gluttony.
    Cheers! Until the next time ...

  62. Trump is despicable. In the meantime, it was Obama who told the bankers he would protect them. With all his flaws, especially his support for a new expensive (highly profitable) cold war with Russia, Bernie Sanders was one of those rare politicians that didn't lie to us about almost everything. I hope readers use this article to once and for all discard their illusions about Obama and his co-conspirators e.g. the Clintons, Biden and all the other faux Progressives like Cuomo.

  63. Deplorables, nothing but deplorables, the whole rotten bunch.
    Happy Anniversary to them all. And let them all eat cake.