THE BOB JOHNSTON PODCAST
By Bob Johnston
June 16, 2020
SEASON
1
EPISODE
18
Titans of Finance – Peter J. Solomon, Founder, PJ SOLOMON

Pop Quiz…

Which of the following best describes today’s guest, Peter J. Solomon?

A) Beekeeper
B) Bird Watcher
C) Children’s Book Collector
D) World-renowned Investment Banker
E) All of the above

Unless you already know the answer is “E”, you’re in for a real treat with today’s podcast. Most of us know Peter J. Solomon as the prominent banker and founder of PJ Solomon, one of the country’s first independent investment banks. But, I bet very few of you know him as a keeper of bees, an avid birder, or as a collector of children’s books. At risk of being called an “underachiever”, Peter recently authored the book, Wasting Time Constructively: A Guide to a Balanced Life, in which Peter documents his journey to success, the obstacles and failures encountered along the way, and his never-ending quest for a balanced life.

In our conversation, Peter shares his insights around a variety of topics ranging from daily personal fulfillment to idiosyncrasies and how developing them is a sign of an evolved mind. We discuss the importance of sharing honest opinions with customers and (gasp!) developing friendships them. Plus, we cover Peter’s risky departure from his Vice Chairman role at Lehman Brothers to work for NYC Mayor Ed Koch and subsequently, President Carter.Mr. Solomon founded PJ SOLOMON in 1989. Previously, he was Vice Chairman of Lehman Brothers where he was Chairman of its Merchant Banking Division and Co-Chairman of the Investment Banking Division.

From 1978 to 1980, Mr. Solomon was Deputy Mayor of Economic Policy and Development in New York City under Mayor Edward I. Koch. He was also Chairman of the New York City Health and Hospitals Corporation, which operated 17 municipal hospitals. He served as Counselor to the United States Treasury in the Carter Administration in 1980.

In 2013, Mr. Solomon served as Co-Chairman of New York Governor Andrew M. Cuomo’s Tax Reform and Fairness Commission, charged with proposing reforms to the state’s complex tax code.  He also served on Governor Cuomo’s Spending and Government Efficiency Commission (SAGE).

Mr. Solomon writes frequently about public policy issues.

Solomon, far right, with beekeepers in the family. Source: Peter J. Solomon

Education

Mr. Solomon holds a BA, cum laude, from Harvard College and an MBA from Harvard Business School.

Professional Affiliations
  • Director, Monro, Inc.
  • Member, Natixis International Advisory Network
  • Member, Avenir Growth Capital Advisory Board
  • Member, US Trust Bank of America Advisory Committee
Previous Professional Affiliations
  • Director, Associated Dry Goods Corporation
  • Director, Babo Botanicals
  • Director, BKF Capital Group, Inc.
  • Director, Centennial Cellular Corporation
  • Director, Century Communications Corp.
  • Director, Esquire, Inc.
  • Director, General Cigar Holdings
  • Director, LIN Broadcasting Corporation
  • Director, Office Depot, Inc.
  • Director, Phillips-Van Heusen Corporation
  • Director, The Stop & Shop Companies, Inc.
  • Director, Zagat Survey LLC
Not-For-Profit Affiliations
  • Member, Boards of Managers, Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center, Memorial Hospital for Cancer and Allied Diseases and Sloan-Kettering Institute for Cancer Research
  • Trustee, American Museum of Natural History
  • Director, American Friends Musée d’Orsay
  • Director and Chairman Emeritus, The Manhattan Theatre Club
  • Chairman, Friends of the Center for Jewish Studies – Harvard University
  • Trustee, Lucius Littauer Foundation
  • Member, Council on Foreign Relations
Solomon's latest book. Source: Peter J. Solomon

Peter J. Solomon

Solomon (left) with Mayor Ed Koch

Listen to the episode on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Stitcher, Google Podcasts, Overcast, Castbox, or your preferred podcast platform.

SELECTED QUOTES
I have had a commitment to the environment virtually all my life. My folks were birders and I have always loved the environment. "
— on his love of the environment
I have never dealt with anyone whose integrity I doubted. That is the number one thing."
— on walking away from a potential deal or firing a client, if necessary
EPISODE MARKERS

•   The idea of balance between the different partsof an individual's life. [0:09:10]

•   Peter's varied passions; beekeeping, parrots andauthoring children's books. [0:12:32]

•   The power of idiosyncratic thinking and thesharing of opinions. [0:15:04]

•   Offering opinions and advice and how thisrelates to getting paid or hired. [0:16:53]

•   Mixing business and pleasure; Peter's approachto working with friends and managing relationships. [0:19:15]

•   Lessons that Peter learned about the stockmarket during his time at Lehman Brothers. [0:24:25]

•   Peter's current thoughts on the different assetclasses in a post-COVID climate. [0:27:00]

•   Contrasting opinions over the period we areentering into right now. [0:29:06]

•   Peter's risky departure from Lehman Brothers andthis theme throughout his life. [0:34:15]

•   The future of retailing and the pending legacyof the pandemic. [0:37:14]

•   Peter's thoughts on the types of businesses thatwill come out on top of the retailing slump. [0:41:10]

•   A period of rehabilitation; looking to the nextfew years as a time of recovery. [0:42:11]

•   Peter's history of contrarian views throughouthis life and career. [0:48:50]

•   Go-to sources of inspiration and news for Peter![0:52:32]

•   The opportunities for reinvention that arecurrently available to us in this unusual time. [0:55:09]

GUEST FOOTNOTES
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