Remind us how it all started.
I was in a bar with some friends in Hong Kong and we were talking about how a Twitter account went viral for reporting overheard conversations at Vogue. I said, “Holy shit. If people are this entertained by Vogue gossip, imagine what they’d think if they overheard the shocking and outrageous things bankers say and do. So I got drunk and started @GSElevator that night. Obviously, it had nothing to do with elevators or Goldman Sachs; the intention was to illuminate banking culture.
When you first launched the twitter account, what did you think the chances were of it really going big?
When I was in banking, executing and selling bonds, we always had to fluff the financial press to promote and highlight our deals. So I was fairly confident that I could get attention. I simply emailed many of my contacts anonymously, and then almost overnight, it was picked up by the Daily Mail, New York Post, Gawker, etc.
What was the most paranoid moment you had during the internet-wide manhunt with Goldman Sachs gunning for your identity?
When I started it, I was still doing private equity in Asia and was working with bankers every day so my anonymity was important to me. When the manhunt started, I was quickly under suspicion, as were a bunch of my friends. So I had to deflect attention with some misinformation. Once I retired from banking, I didn’t care so much about my identity. I even tweeted about crashing my Maserati and other stuff that made me identifiable. After that, many people knew who I was, but they understood it wasn’t relevant to the construct of the twitter account so they never outed me.
What’s you favorite @GSElevator tweet?
“Every time my wife offers me a blowjob, I know it’s time to check my American Express statement.”
Why’d you decide to write a book? And why is it called Straight To Hell?
It was clear that the Twitter voice resonated with people, and I thought that my stories, that I’ve been sharing with banker friends drunk in a bar for years, were too insane and outrageous not to share.
The title stems from an incident that didn’t even make the cut for the book. I was at a wedding for a banker friend. Many of my colleagues, competitors, and hedge fund clients were there. One of the groomsmen turned the chaplain’s office into a communal cocaine room. When the bridesmaids kicked us out, we moved the party to the playground behind the church. So imagine a perfect blue-sky day at a majestic hilltop church, celebrating the holy union of two people, and there are six bankers and hedge fund mangers in tuxedos sitting on miniature, brightly-colored, plastic picnic tables in a playground behind a church, ripping through lines of cocaine. That’s when I said, “If one of us ever writes a book about our crazy experiences, it has to be called Straight To Hell.”
What do you make of the Wolf of Wall Street comparisons?
The Wolf of Wall Street is about community college rejects who commit crimes and party like rock stars. I’m talking about the so-called best and brightest, the guys who attend top universities, get jobs at the most prestigious firms in the world, and do deals that make the front page of the Journal.
In the book, you tell an insane story about a disastrous trip on a private plane. Have you ever had any issues on a commercial flight?
I’ve been kicked off 3 planes including once in a wheelchair and once in handcuffs. Case dismissed obviously, because I’m white and have money. The third time was for calling a first class flight attendant a fat cunt. She was being one, and I felt a moral obligation to call her out. But, I got to pound beers in the lounge, take the next flight, and I still made my connection. So obviously, it was worth it.
Surely, you’re just a bad boy from birth who was going to find that wild fraternity on Wall Street and go hard. The whole banking culture can’t all be like this. What percentage of the industry is the straight-laced guy who puts in a hard days work and heads home to the picket fence and Golden Retriever?
That’s probably true. That’s why if you drink a lot, it’s good to surround yourself with other drinkers, because then, you drink the normal amount. There are definitely many straight-laced, perfect-on-paper, Ralph Lauren catalogue worthy bankers. But, from my experience, those are the guys who get the craziest. I’ve hosted those bankers from New York on Asian roadshows, and that’s when the wheels come off, and so do the wedding rings. I would say Wall Street attracts a certain sociopathic mentality, but then molds them to fit into the culture where they gradually lose all sight of reality, and sometimes even basic human decency. In my case, I owe some decent bonuses to the fact that I was good at binge drinking, playing golf, and keeping road game secrets.
So you were crazy in college and then Wall Street turned you into a total lunatic?
Something like that. My college roommate came to visit me in Hong Kong after I had been in banking for about 7 years. I had a chauffeur meet him in the terminal with a sign that said MR. CUMFACE, two hookers waiting in the car, and a mountain of cocaine back in my apartment. I was working twelve-hour days in the office, and entertaining him all night. Three days later, he was in the hospital, and it was just another day in the office for me.
Four of us at TFM Headquarters had the privilege to meet with you for a couple of hours over a beer. Three guys were thoroughly entertained with your captivating story telling, and one guy feared you were a certified madman. Based off this tiny sample, is it fair to say that John Lefevre is 75% good-timing shooter of the shit and 25% sociopath? Is this ratio the recipe for business success in America?
It’s a pendulum that swings, sometimes like a wrecking ball. But I think my average is pretty good. Right now, I’m a mostly good guy focused on my kids. We take wagon rides in the morning, walk the dogs, swim in the afternoon, and then at night, I drink with my wife.
But, I do need a release from time to time to let the bad out, which requires a quick trip to LA, NYC, or Miami.
A dead hooker must have been something you dealt with at some point. A very close call at the least. Lets hear it.
I have more love monkey stories than I can count. But actually all of the close calls tended to be crafty hookers and almost dead bankers.
You’re a husband and father now settled in the Houston burbs. Are you walking the little league grounds with a 24 ounce Miller or is it a Diet Coke? I’ll bet you my VOYA 401k that it’s an inconspicuous spiked Diet Coke. (And since you’ve been out of the game, thats VOYA, formerly known as ING. It’s no Goldman but I’ve been seeing some pretty sick returns.) Anyway, which is it? Shoot us straight. The people need to know how the story ended.
My kids are too young, but we plan on making Bloody Mary’s from the back of the Escalade on the sidelines. Although, I did recently accost an eight-year old kid racing his bike across the toddler’s playground. When he almost crashed into my son, I picked him up off the bike and yelled, “What the fuck is your problem, you fucking idiot?” I was waiting for him to piss his pants, but my wife made us high tail it out of there.
You’re a guy who knows business, the forefront of the internet, man philosophy, and how to entertain. So what’s next for the real man behind the Goldman Sachs Elevator phenomenon?
I’m involved in a couple of startups, and also a few projects related to the book that could be really exciting. Beyond that, I just play golf, drink beer, and hang out with my family.
Also, I’m looking for an intern to curate and run my Instagram page if you know anyone..
John LeFevre is the creator of @GSElevator on Twitter, and the author of the new book and New York Times Bestseller, Straight To Hell: True Tales of Deviance, Debauchery, And Billion-Dollar Deals.
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