The Lehman collapse: Tony Bugg’s view

Tony Bugg

Tony Bugg

There was clearly awareness of Lehman’s difficulties in the days running up to its collapse, but I don’t think any of us actually thought it would really go under. Looking back at the events in New York no one thought the Fed would let it go under: if there was a solution for Bear Stearns then there would be a solution for Lehman.

We didn’t expect it to happen. We had a team of derivatives, corporate, restructuring and tax lawyers on standby on the Sunday, but we genuinely didn’t expect it to collapse. There was an acquirer and it was not until the last minute when the deal collapsed that everything changed.

At 6pm on Sunday things started to change and the deal with the acquirer fell through, but it wasn’t until midnight that it was confirmed and we had to put the team into play. By Sunday evening we’d assembled a team with Richard Holden, David Ereira.

For me Lehman was not an institution that I had a detailed knowledge of. The people who knew it the most were our derivatives partners. For the restructuring group it was new territory. I’d not even been to their building before.

It’s a huge building and it was empty. We went there on the Sunday. There were some people on the 10th floor and the senior guys up on the famous 31st floor. I remember getting the lift up to the 31st floor and having to get out on 22 because you had to change lift banks. We didn’t have door passes and we had to walk around trying to find someone to give us a pass to let us get on to the right floor. It was very odd.

We had a meeting at our offices at 5.30am on Monday that went on until 7.30am. The judge came in and we put Lehman into administration at 7.56am. It was clearly a very different kind of proceeding in the UK to the US. We were all sat in meeting room 207, in jeans with a judge deciding the fate of Lehman. It felt very odd to be doing all of this at One Silk Street.

We then set up camp at Lehman. I don’t think I went back to the office for two or three months.

You can’t not eat or sleep, but we worked from very early in the morning until very late at night. While we were there the world was collapsing around us. In a way you are immune to what is going on outside. You’re so focused on the job you’ve got to do. We all felt like we were in a bubble.

Being able to understand Lehman’s business and how to unwind it was very difficult.  You have to take it one step at a time.

There have been 101 different issues to deal with over the last year. There has been a lot of time put into planning for the next step. There are a lot of litigation issues that we are now dealing with.