John A. Mulheren Jr., a Wall Street trader who overcame accusations of insider trading in the 1980s to lead the fifth-largest New York Stock Exchange specialist firm, died Monday at the age of 54.
Mulheren, chief executive of Bear Wagner Specialists, had a heart attack, said Alan "Ace" Greenberg, former chairman of Bear Stearns Cos., which controls Bear Wagner.
"John was a brilliant trader, a great business partner, a devoted family man and a good friend," said Bear Stearns Chief Executive James Cayne. "He will be missed and remembered by all who knew him."
Mulheren, whose conviction on federal insider trading charges was overturned, was arrested in February 1988, accused of setting out to kill arbitrager Ivan Boesky.
New Jersey police arrested Mulheren as he pulled out of the driveway of his mansion with a loaded assault rifle in the back seat of his Mercedes-Benz. He and Boesky were indicted on federal charges that they had helped an investor three years earlier manipulate Gulf & Western Inc. stock.
The assault charges involving Boesky were dismissed after his lawyers said Mulheren's instability had been caused by a stomach problem that forced him to stop taking lithium, a drug used to control manic depression.
"He did nothing and was found innocent of everything," said Greenberg in a phone interview. "I can't think of anyone in the world who was better in business, in ethics and in charitable activities. It's a terrible loss."
Mulheren, one of the most influential arbitragers on Wall Street during the 1980s through his firm Jamie Securities (an acronym for partners John A. Mulheren and Israel Englander, head of Millennium Partners LP), became CEO of Bear Wagner in 1991.
He was previously with several other specialist firms, including J&B Specialists and Spear, Leeds & Kellogg. A political science major at Roanoke College, he trained at brokerage G.A. Saxton and then moved to Merrill Lynch & Co., where he created its risk and options arbitrage unit.
In an interview this month on charges that New York Stock Exchange specialists may have broken trading rules, Mulheren, who jokingly referred to his firm as a bunch of "crazy traders," said he had learned to live with the notoriety of his arrest.
"When you see a paper that says 'People of the United States versus your name,' you start wondering if maybe you really did something," he said. "Then you say, 'No, I'm OK,' and you turn over and go back to sleep."
In his hometown of Rumson, N.J., Mulheren was friends with his neighbor Bruce Springsteen, who belonged to the Chapel Beach Club, which Mulheren owned, in nearby Sea Bright. Mulheren also owned a popular Rumson ice cream parlor called Crazees.
Mulheren is survived by his wife, Nancy, and seven children, said Bear Stearns spokeswoman Elizabeth Ventura. Last month, Mulheren said he had arranged to have a truck sent to one of his sons who is serving in the Army in Alaska.
Mulheren was also a major contributor to charities such as the United Negro College Fund, his colleagues said. At Bear Wagner, Mulheren instituted a policy requiring all partners to give at least 5% of their gross incomes to charity, Ventura said.
"John was the most generous person you could ever meet, not just with money but with time and with his thoughts," said Daniel McCabe, a partner at Bear Wagner for six years.