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Lehman Brothers To Return As Discount Clothing Outlet
WALL STREET (CAP) - Lehman Brothers, the global financial services company that declared bankruptcy earlier this month, will reopen later this fall as a discount men's clothing outlet, according to CEO Richard S. Fuld, Jr.
"The Board of Directors did some extensive surveys, and we discovered that's what most people thought we were anyway, so brand recognition is high," said Fuld, folding sweaters and placing them neatly into Formica cubbies in what will soon be Lehman Bros' flagship store in Moonachie, N.J.
"It's just nine miles from Manhattan, so very easy on our displaced workers," said Fuld, who will act as Lehman's chief clothing buyer and window display designer. "Plus, highway access and lots of free parking."
Lehman Brothers' bankruptcy was the largest in U.S. history, and part of an almost unprecedented Wall Street meltdown that many are blaming on a lack of sufficient regulation on the part of the government. "I really wish someone had mentioned the need for more regulation sooner," said President George W. Bush this week.
When reminded that he had been advised about exactly this scenario as far back as 2001, he responded, "I meant like when Clinton was still in office."
But although it fell the farthest, Lehman Brothers is also hoping to be the first firm to bounce back. "We're going to carry classic, durable brands that everyone loves, at great prices," said Fuld, hanging three-packs of underwear on little metal hooks. "BVD, Van Heusen, Dockers, and we'll even have some celebrity fashions - Lenny Kravitz has a clothing line now, and we're also going to carry the Tim McGraw cologne."
Lehman Brothers will beat the competition by offering "friendly personal service," said Fuld. "Also, we're thinking of getting a guy who sits in the parking lot and sells pretzels."
Lawrence F. Gray, formerly vice president of finance and now head of the outerwear department at Lehman Brothers, said he's looking forward to his new career path. "It's actually kind of exciting," he said. "For instance, did you know that outerwear isn't just coats and jackets? It's also hats."
When asked about how he felt to have gone from being a VP with a $2 million annual salary to a retail store manager making $46,178 a year, Gray hesitated for a second, put his finger in the air as if to respond, and then broke down sobbing for a full 10 minutes.
Meanwhile, several other troubled firms are following in Lehman's footsteps. Loan guarantor Fannie Mae will be selling fine chocolates, and floundering insurance giant AIG will get into the fast-food fried chicken industry. "Wall Street, gutting and boiling chickens alive - it's all pretty much the same thing," noted outgoing AIG CEO Robert B. Willumstad.
It's moves like this that will help the economy rebound, said Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson, who added that despite recent bailouts the U.S. financial markets are "fragile, like a girl who's been through a rough breakup, or a snowflake, or a Faberge egg dropped from a great height."
But Lehman Brothers still hopes to be the first back on its feet, with a grand opening in time for the Christmas rush. Fuld says they're banking on good word of mouth, a series of billboards on the New Jersey Turnpike in the Monmouth County area, and ads promoting their new motto: "You're going to like the way you look; we guarantee it - not like with all those mortgages."