NEW YORK. For Fred Hollingsworth, an investment banker whose five-decade year career will come to an end tonight at a farewell dinner that will be attended by scores of colleagues, it was never about the money. “I always told young kids starting out to take the long view,” he says as he packs up personal belongings in his corner office. “Is it really worth it to screw somebody today for a million bucks, when if you wait and screw them next month you could get ten million?”
“Fred has been an inspiration to all of us money-grubbing sons of bitches.”
As a leader in the many communities his work has taken him to since he started as a junior analyst with J.B. Swarthmore Securities in 1969, Hollingsworth can look back on scores of charitable endeavors that have meant as much to him as the four homes and three wives he acquired with his wealth. “They asked me to chair the Ingrown Toenail Foundation Gala in 1985, and I’ve stayed involved ever since,” he notes, his voice growing uncharacteristically emotional. “When you see those little kids hobbling in pain, it just breaks your f____ing heart.”
But more than the friends and the money he has made and the good works he has done, Hollingsworth says he will treasure one thing above all; the extensive collection of “deal toys” he has acquired as advisor or underwriter on numerous mergers, acquisitions and other corporate transactions.
“Human beings are nice, don’t get me wrong,” he says as he hefts one particularly handsome paper weight commemorating an initial public offering in his hand, “but can you hold a human being up to the light of the afternoon sun and make little rainbows on the wall? I don’t think so.”
More deal toys.
“Deal toys” are Lucite doo-hickeys that memorialize a corporate finance transaction, usually paid for out of fees received by investment bankers. “At the low end of the scale, it’s just a miniature copy of the ‘tombstone’ ad announcing the deal,” says Lowell Firke, who has created mementoes for some of Wall Street’s biggest transactions over the past two decades. “At the high end, say for a hostile takeover, you might suspend the CEO of the target company in Lucite in his boxer shorts–something really cruel, I mean cool, like that.”
Hollingsworth says he will probably leave his tchotchkes to an art museum when he dies, and will loan some of them out to orphanages while he is living. “I don’t know what it is about these little suckers,” he says with childlike wonder as he examines a paperweight from a billion dollar tender offer. “You should see the tears on the kids’ faces when I give them one.”