While at Harvard Business School, a professor told investment bank CEO Peter J Solomon: ‘If you want to do something for society go to Wall Street, make a lot of money. And you’ll do more for society using that money that you make on Wall Street than you ever will in either politics of social welfare’.”
That, he tells OneWire CEO Skiddy von Stade, is part of how he got on the path to building his own shop, Peter J Solomon Company. It was the first private investment bank on Wall Street.
Solomon also served as Deputy Mayor of New York during the Ed Koch administration, which surprised him more than those who had known him at Harvard.
“I didn’t know Ed Koch… I didn’t particularly like him,” said Solomon. And it wasn’t an easy job.
At the time, New York City was in a very dark place fiscally — there was an energy crisis and unemployment was high. It was only with a push from his boss at Lehman Brothers, Peter Peterson, that Solomon took the position. He ended up loving the experience, though, and it formed the way he thinks about government today.
“The only time government is worthwhile is in crises. And the time that I’m critical of government, like the financial crisis, is when they can’t function because the only reason they’re there is for crises.”
Solomon pointed to Treasury Secretary John Paulson as an example. During the financial crisis Paulson said he didn’t have the authority to take certain actions to save the economy.
“In government, you don’t ask for permission, you ask for forgiveness,” Solomon finished.
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