JPMorgan global commodities unit head Masters to leave: memo

Wed Apr 2, 2014 2:05pm EDT
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By David Henry and Anna Louie Sussman

NEW YORK (Reuters) - Blythe Masters, one of Wall Street's most powerful women, is leaving JPMorgan Chase & Co. (JPM.N: Quote) after a 27-year career that began as an intern in London and concludes with the sale of the multibillion-dollar commodities business she built.

Masters, who turned 45 in late March, will leave the bank in a few months after assisting with the sale of its physical energy and metals business to Swiss merchant Mercuria. Many observers had not expected her to remain with the business after its sale, although her future with JPMorgan was less clear.

She will take "time off" and "consider future opportunities," according to a memo bank executives sent to employees on Wednesday.

Once a rising star within JPMorgan and credited with having helped create credit derivatives in the early 1990s, Masters' career took a much rockier turn in recent years as she got caught up in a regulatory inquiry and struggled to extract profits from the commodities operation.

She began her career at JPMorgan as an intern in London before entering Cambridge University, where she studied economics. She joined the commodities desk in 1991 after graduating, and later moved to the bank's derivatives desk, where she was considered a derivatives wunderkind.

She is known for having been part of the team that pioneered structured finance instruments which others on Wall Street took to excesses that fueled the U.S. housing bubble and set up the financial crisis of 2008.

After serving for several years as chief financial officer of the investment bank, Masters took the reins of the commodities desk in 2006 as interim head.

While the bank had been a sizeable player in commodities in the 1990s, with a global oil trading division led at the time by Masters' ex-husband, Danny Masters, it hadn't delved as deeply into the sector as investment banks Goldman Sachs (GS.N: Quote) and Morgan Stanley (MS.N: Quote), and had scaled back after facing regulatory scrutiny in metals markets toward the turn of the century.   Continued...

A sign is seen on the Canary Wharf offices of JP Morgan in London September 19, 2013. REUTERS/Neil Hall