Oh, yes, by all means let's celebrate the modern-day resurgence of the robber barons and backroom trusts and colonial pillagers and union-busters of the Gilded Age. And let us all praise them as great philanthropists and humanists so long as they toss the occasional coin towards their inferiors. Smashing, simply smashing.
His achievement required political clout, and that, too, is on display. Soon after he formed Citigroup, Congress repealed a Depression-era law that prohibited goliaths like the one Mr. Weill had just put together anyway, combining commercial and investment banking, insurance and stock brokerage operations. A trophy from the victory — a pen that President Bill Clinton used to sign the repeal — hangs, framed, near the magazine covers.
Only twice before over the last century has 5 percent of the national income gone to families in the upper one-one-hundredth of a percent of the income distribution — currently, the almost 15,000 families with incomes of $9.5 million or more a year, according to an analysis of tax returns by the economists Emmanuel Saez at the University of California, Berkeley and Thomas Piketty at the Paris School of Economics.
Other very wealthy men in the new Gilded Age talk of themselves as having a flair for business not unlike Derek Jeter’s “unique talent” for baseball, as Leo J. Hindery Jr. put it. “I think there are people, including myself at certain times in my career,” Mr. Hindery said, “who because of their uniqueness warrant whatever the market will bear.”
Huzzah huzzah. Pink gins all around.
(Also, Derek Jeter? Really?)
UPDATE: Okay, let me be even more explicit. Sanford ("Sandy") Weill, who is prominently featured in the article (including photo and interview clips)... the Sandy Weill of the "Joan and Sanford I. Weill Recital Hall," who is the Chairman of Carnegie Hall's Board of Trustees and was "honored at a huge fund-raising party that Carnegie Hall gave on his 70th birthday"... the Sandy Weill who proclaims "We didn’t rely on somebody else to build what we built, and we shouldn’t rely on somebody else to provide all the services our society needs"... that same Sandy Weill led Citigroup into a notoriously scandal-ridden period from which they have yet to fully emerge. He was up to his neck in the Enron, WorldCom, and Global Crossing shenanigans (as tig points out in comments, they had to pay a $120 million SEC settlement for helping Enron commit fraud), and that's just the tip of the iceberg. Of course, this part of the story goes completely unmentioned in the Times piece.
That BBC piece also has a quote from Amey Stone, who co-authored this (largely uncritical) biography of Sandy Weill:
"[Mr Weill] was very hands on and a very controlling manager who oversaw a lot of operations," she says. "He did have an aggressive style, he emphasised profits, he was very strict about divisions delivering profit goals. I think questions of ethics really took a back seat."
See also Chris Sullentrop's 2002 piece in Slate.