The Last of the Imperious Rich

The Last of the Imperious Rich

Lehman Brothers, 1844-2008

Written by:

Additional Formats
  • Paperback
  • ISBN 9781591844327
  • 336 Pages
  • Portfolio
  • Adult


In 1844 Henry Lehman arrived in the United States from Germany and, with his brother Emanuel, established a modest cotton brokering firm that would come to be called Lehman Brothers. In 2008 Dick Fuld, the last CEO of Lehman Brothers, filed for corporate bankruptcy amid one of the worst financial crises in American history. After 164 years one of the largest and most respected investment banks in the world was gone, leaving everyone wondering, ‘How could this have happened?’ Peter Chapman answers this question by examining the history of Lehman from its humble beginnings to its dramatic exit. He offers a sweeping narrative as well as a clear perspective on exactly what caused Lehman to fail. He also paints an intimate portrait of the people who ran it, including Bobbie Lehman, who in the 1920s led the company into the world of radio, motion pictures, and air travel. Chapman shows that, despite its inglorious end, Lehman not only helped shape the face of American finance, but also American life.


“…the historical parallels that the author provides are often thought- provoking and illuminating.”
-The New York Times

“…a remarkable story of what Lehman once was and a somber story about what it became.”

“Chapman, financial reporter and editor, weaves a fascinating story framed in the history of the times during which Lehman Brothers helped shape financial markets.”

The Last of the Imperious Rich is an excellent, fast-paced account of the rise and fall of Lehman Brothers. Peter Chapman captures the firm’s high and low moments with admirable clarity, especially the hubris that led to its ultimate demise. A valuable addition to Wall Street history.”
-Charles Geisst, author of Collateral Damaged and Wall Street: A History

The Last of the Imperious Rich is a gripping financial history. Peter Chapman has connected the dots from the unlikely beginnings of Henry Lehman in antebellum Alabama to the adventures of Bobbie Lehman on Wall Street to the domineering, and ultimately destructive, rule by Dick Fuld. Chapman’s story is an object lesson in the dangers of aggressive short-term thinking in finance. Lehman’s journey from helping companies like Campbell Soup to perpetrating modern financial schemes is a parable of how the markets went wrong.”
-Frank Partnoy, George E. Barrett Professor of Law and Finance, University of San Diego; author of The Match King