Back in 1986, my then assistant, Bruce Karsh, gave me some bad news: he was leaving Kaufman and Broad.
Bruce was just 31 years old, but he had been my right-hand man for two years, and it hadn’t been easy to recruit him. When I found Bruce, he was a rising lawyer at O’Melveny and Myers, Los Angeles’s oldest and biggest law firm. He had also been a star student at Duke University and a clerk to now Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy.
I had wanted Bruce to stay on with me at Sun Life for a long time. It had been a big year for us. We had just acquired the company that would get us going in the annuity business and would help make us a multibillion-dollar company. But Bruce left me for the same reason he first came—he was a bright guy with a lot of ambition. I said he could go on one condition: He had to find me an even more talented replacement. Bruce hemmed and hawed at first. He already had a candidate in mind but, he said, the senior partners at O’Melveny would kill him if he told me.
I was eager to have another O’Melveny alum. I had learned that bright young corporate lawyers often sit across the table from investment bankers and do the same work but for a lot less money and with less room to grow. It was a great talent pool in which to fish. Thankfully, Bruce finally gave me the name of Jay Wintrob.
Jay was 29 years old. He had graduated summa cum laude from the University of California, Berkeley, and gone to the Berkeley ...