Marketing Lessons from the Collapse of Lehman Brothers

January 28, 2010

For one hundred and fifty eight years, the investment bank Lehman Brothers survived multiple business cycles and even the Great Depression. However, critical miscalculations in its last few years of life ultimately proved catastrophic for not only Lehman Brothers, but the global economy as well.  A post-mortem examination of mistakes made by Lehman executives provides ample lessons for marketing executives of all stripes.

 Started in the 1850s by three German immigrant brothers (Henry, Emanuel and Mayer) the Lehman’s founded the New York Cotton Exchange and eventually became huge players in the trading of equities and debt instruments.  At the time, the Lehman Brothers probably could not have imagined the firm would become one of the largest investment banks in the world, with over $46B of revenues in 2008.  Also inconceivable was mistakes the company made that ultimately led to its destruction.

In the book, “A Colossal Failure of Common Sense; the Inside Story of the Collapse of Lehman Brothers,” former Lehman Brothers vice president, Larry McDonald, chronicles the rise and fall of his company. Taking readers from the nascent beginnings of