As soon as I heard that former Bear Stearns CEO Alan “Ace” Greenberg” had died of cancer at 86 on July 25th, I called my childhood friend — and now world renowned financial guru — Chairman Emeritus of the Chicago Mercantile Exchange (MERC) Leo Melamed. for comments.
“Ace was a very feet-on-the ground kind of guy. He always had a practical answer based on reality — not invention. He was extremely open, friendly, understanding and — to me — a mentsch.”
Alan “Ace” Greenberg // Photo by Karen Leon
A co-honoree with Paul Volker at the October 10, 2002 Builders of Jerusalem Awards Dinner at The Plaza, Greenberg recalled being asked by Jerusalem’s former mayor Teddy Kollek to help fund “a foundation project.” The result: The Esther Greenberg Comprehensive High School and Ted Greenberg Sports Center in Gilo “for all citizens of Israel: Arabs and Jews.”
Introduced with his wife Kathy Greenberg as: The Humanitarian Couple” at the April 21, 2004 Jewish Women’s Foundation of New York Benefit at The Pierre, Mrs. Greenberg, founder of the New York Legal Assistance Group (NYLAG) was adamant about the need to provide [women] with “something money can’t buy and marriage does not guarantee — self esteem.” After accepting the award, “”Ace” Greenberg calmly declared: “In 1984 I was knighted by the Queen of Denmark. Now you are going to see a very quiet knight.” He said nothing more and then sat down!
At the 2001 Parkinson’s Disease Foundation “Bal du Printemps” dinner at The Pierre, event co-chair Greenberg spoke of his father who had suffered from Parkinson’s. Co-chair, Walter Cronkite joked: “He’s my stockbroker “ and, alluding to Greenberg’s magic tricks expertise, said “I wish he could perform some of that magic with my losses.”
What struck me about the outpouring of obituary tributes in the Times by individuals and organizations was how each one cited a different aspect of the man with nary a repetition: “creative,” “mentor,” “transformational,” “trusted friend,” “visionary philanthropist” and more.
Rachel Oestreicher Bernheim, chairman of the Board of Directors of the Raoul Wallenberg Committee of the United States noted “His chairmanship was like no other.” The Board of Trustees of the Hospital for Special Surgery wrote: “His exceptional philanthropy improved the lives of countless patients.” Dean Matthew Diller of The Benjamin N. Cardozo School of Law, Yeshiva University, wrote: “There are few people who have the talent, the heart, the vision and skill to make better the lives of others and to advance the ethos of an institution — Alan Greenberg was such a man.”
My first introduction to “Ace” Greenberg was during a series of events in the 1990s. At some, he performed magic tricks and did special presentations for children. In a 1996 newspaper I spotted an incongruous shot of Greenberg surrounded by a herd of cows. I then sent him a cow mobile I bought at the MOMA bookstore. He sent me a “Thank You” note. Seems the photo was for a film promotion. That year, at the American Committee for Shaare Zedek Medical Center in Jerusalem Dinner at The New York Hilton, he thanked me for the mobile and said “ I was very mooo-ved by it.”