Mack is the chairman of Morgan Stanley. He stepped down as the firm's CEO at the end of 2009, handing over the reigns to James Gorman.
Mack was born Jack Machoul: His father Charlie, who operated a grocery store in Mooresville, North Carolina, changed the Lebanese family name when John was a young boy. Mack attended Duke on a football scholarship before joining Morgan Stanley in 1972 as a bond trader, rising to managing director after seven years. In 1993, he was named president, quickly earning the nickname "Mack the Knife" for his cost-cutting prowess and obsessive focus on efficiency. But in 2001, after nearly three decades at the firm, Mack abruptly walked out the door following a clash with Morgan's chairman Phil Purcell, whom Mack believed had reneged on a deal to turn over the CEO role five years after the $10 billion merger between Morgan Stanley and Dean Witter.
Mack landed at Credit Suisse First Boston in July 2001, and was tasked with overseeing the integration of Donaldson Lufkin & Jenrette and steering the firm through the tough times that followed the dot-com bust and the indictment of top CSFB banker Frank Quattrone. During his tenure Mack cut 10,000 jobs and returned the bank to profitability. But he yielded mixed results overall; critics said that his cuts ran too deep and that he largely failed to fix the firm's fractured culture. After clashing with his Swiss bosses over strategic direction—Mack wanted to merge with another bank, his bosses in Zurich did not—in 2005 he resigned and took the job of chairman of Art Samberg's Pequot Capital Management. Less than a month later, he returned to Morgan Stanley in the wake of one of Wall Street's most public coups, as top bankers either walked out or threatened to rather than continue working with Purcell. Mack was named Morgan Stanley's chairman and CEO on June 30, 2005.
Mack returned to Morgan Stanley as a peacemaker, someone who could revive a firm that had grown increasingly demoralized during Purcell's rocky tenure. But while he quickly set about changing the corporate culture in ways large and small (like making a point of greeting junior employees he encountered in the hallway), he also made it clear that he planned to shift the company's strategic direction in order to compete more effectively against rivals like Goldman Sachs, Merrill Lynch, and Lehman Brothers. In contrast to Purcell, who was seen as overly cautious at times, Mack almost immediately announced plans to deploy the firm's own capital more aggressively, bolstering the energy, fixed-income and hedge fund businesses; he also quickly focused his attention on financing private equity transactions, which seemed to pay off when a series of lucrative assignments followed.
Unfortunately, his aggressive move into riskier businesses left Morgan vulnerable during the global credit crisis, and the firm has since been forced to write off billions in connection with its exposure to the subprime mortgage market as well as lay off thousands of employees. The financial crisis even threatened to bring down Morgan entirely in October 2008 when shares in the bank dropped precipitously and it seemed like Morgan might go the way of Lehman Brothers. A deal to sell a fifth of the bank to Japan's Mitsubushi-UFJ Financial Group for $9 billion helped save the bank from ruin —as did a very substantial bailout from Washington—although with the firm struggling to recover its prior glory, Mack announced in September 2009 that he planned to step down as CEO at the end of the year. James Gorman, who served as Morgan Stanley's co-head of global wealth management division became CEO at the beginning of 2010, with Mack staying on as chairman.
Mack was lavishly rewarded in his first year as chief executive: In 2006, he earned more than $40 million in cash, stock and options. He made substantially less in 2007 as the credit crisis began to take its toll, collecting $1.5 million and foregoing a bonus. He also declined a bonus for 2008 and 2009.
A longtime Bush supporter, Mack He was a "Ranger" for Bush in 2004, having helped the president raise $200,000 for his campaign. He changed his stripes in 2008 and endorsed Hillary Clinton's bid for the White House in 2008.
Mack was under investigation by the SEC in 2006 for insider trading in connection with trades made by Pequot's Art Samberg. (Mack worked for Pequot briefly and it was suggested that he tipped off the fund about the acquisition of Heller Financial by GE Capital.) He was cleared of all charges in October 2006.
Mack is on the board of Duke and over the years has given the school millions, including $10 million in 2004 to fund a center that focuses on wellness and integrative health. He's used Duke to his advantage, too. He reportedly once asked Duke's basketball coach to call an employee—who happened to be a big Duke fan—to commend him on his department's aggressive cost-cutting measures.
Mack's wife, Christy, heads up the family's charitable foundation. (The couple was introduced by Christy's sister, Mary, who happened to be married to Charlie Rose at the time.) They have three kids and live in Rye, in a home that overlooks the Apawamis golf course. In 2009 they also picked up an Upper East Side pied-à-terre, paying $13.5 million for a "fixer upper" townhouse on East 70th Street.