In a near-full St. Patrick’s Cathedral Monday morning, at what turned out to be the big-business version of a state funeral, JPMorgan Chase (JPM) CEO Jamie Dimon delivered a eulogy of his close friend and colleague, Jimmy Lee. The 62-year-old Lee was a JPMorgan vice-chairman, a master of the investment-banker universe, and a man at the top of his game when he fell ill last Wednesday during his morning workout on his treadmill in his Darien, Connecticut home. Lee suffered a massive heart attack and died soon after in the hospital. He left his wife, Elizabeth, a son, James, and two daughters, Elizabeth and Alexandra.
The gathering of Lee’s still-stunned friends and colleagues and competitors was packed with bold-faced names including New York City mayor Mike Bloomberg, IAC (IACI) chief Barry Diller , NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell, General Electric (GE) CEO Jeff Immelt, DreamWorks Animation (DWA) chief Jeffrey Katzenberg, CBS (CBS) chief Les Moonves, James and Lachlan Murdoch, and Blackstone (BX) CEO Steve Schwarzman. Lee’s son, known as Jamie, gave a eulogy, as did Lee’s former boarding school roommate, Mike McBride—and Dimon, who last year faced down his own health crisis as he was treated for throat cancer. Calling Lee “a nuclear power, a sun of positive energy,” Dimon fought back tears as he delivered his tribute. Below is Dimon’s eulogy in its entirety.
James B. Lee. Jimmy Lee. Jimmy. If you could see—and I believe you can—what all of us here can see, in this sacred place—the sea of people here to pay their respects from all walks of your life. More importantly, if you could feel the outpouring of deep love that you always cherished, you would be the happiest person on earth.
Your life was inexplicably cut short, but the life you had, you lived to the fullest— it was complete and wonderful. Professionally—you spent 40 incredible years at JPMorgan Chase—and personally—you nurtured deep friendships with all of us gathered here.
Most important, you deeply loved your family: your wife, Beth, your children Lexi, Jamie and Izzy, their spouses Justin and Jamie, and your two young grandchildren, Bobby and JoJo.
One of the most beautiful things about your life was that you left behind no regrets: you did so much—all that you wanted to do—and left nothing unsaid to all those you loved.
In your business life, you were brilliant—a shining star. Among the best we have seen. Your energy, focus, work ethic, magnetic personality and fierce competiveness were extraordinary. From your knowledge, your EQ and street smarts, your deep understanding and great insights—to your ability to learn, to adapt, to change and to always try to be the best you could. You were simply exceptional.
But Jimmy—you were more than that—you had some kind of secret force – you were a nuclear power, a sun of positive energy. You had unbridled enthusiasm and optimism which you sprinkled, and often poured, on all of us.
Your dealmaking was legendary. In fact, you were instrumental in many of the major transactions and business affairs of many of the people in this room. We do not need to recount your business accomplishments here – they are well chronicled. You were simply a huge influence on the success of so many of us.
In four decades of dedicated service, you got into the arena every day to fight for our clients, our people, our company and our country—you wore the uniform every day and gave it your all.
As one of the architects of our investment bank, your DNA and culture is imbedded in JPMorgan Chase. When anyone is in a room with our senior bankers, you can’t help but recognize that their longevity, partnership, character, culture and respect for each other are exceptional—and this is a tribute to your legacy.
But even in your professional life, you were so much more—doing things that many in this room may not have seen directly:
You helped the families – not just of the captains of industries in this room—but also of the drivers and mail room attendants.
You mentored and paid for the high school and college education of many who were underprivileged.
You had sweet and wonderful relationships with all of the staff—from the guards to our administrative assistants to our junior and senior executives throughout the company.
You always reached out to help lift up those who had been knocked down.
You celebrated every victory with all involved—as you always said, “Everyone gets a ring.”
You were unabashedly patriotic and optimistic. You used to say, you were short pessimism and long America.
And when I was ill last summer, you came into my office each day just to give me a hug—which I know you wanted, too. And you whispered in my ear, “You know that I love you like a brother.”
In your personal life, you were equally special. Some of the things that people may not know was that you were a Renaissance man. In college you majored in Econ, but you also majored in Art History. You loved music. In fact, you helped form a band at JPMorgan Chase, the Bank Notes, in which you played lead guitar. You loved God and country. You considered yourself a great fisherman…and an even better golfer.
You were an incomparable force of nature—because your intellectual talent was accompanied with a huge heart, unyielding passion, and a love of life and humanity.
I’m sure the Lord is, as we speak, adjusting to this new force of nature in Heaven. You will probably want to know why it took six days to create the earth…and was it absolutely necessary to rest on the seventh? And I’m sure you think that heaven would be a little bit more effective by merging some of the various religions.
You spoke many times about the loneliness you felt when your father unexpectedly passed away when you were 11 years old. This may be why you were you. You had an intense desire to prove yourself despite your success—and to love and be loved. You lived every day—and in fact went about every conversation—as if it might be your last. You took nothing for granted and left nothing unsaid.
Here are a few things that I wish I had said more emphatically—and maybe some of you in the audience join me in this. I say it now to you and your family:
I loved your honesty and openness.
I loved your generosity and mentoring.
You pushed and prodded all of us to be better.
You applauded others success every step of the way.
I loved your passion for ideas, knowledge and growth.
I loved your competitive drive to always be the best.
I loved how you unconditionally loved people – from underprivileged kids to titans of industries.
I loved your loyalty—from spending your entire career at one company, your lifelong devotion to your wife and your unyielding loyalty to your friends.
I loved how you were a true gentleman and lived with grace.
I loved how much fun you were to be around—I loved your holiday party!
I loved how you embraced, not just me, but my wife and my children. To me, you were a friend, a coach, a brother.
Most of all, I loved how you loved your family. And how you’d light up with joy and pride every time you talked about them.
Beth, Lexi, Jamie and Izzy, as you walk through this life you know that your dad will forever be walking by your side. And Jimmy, rest in comfort knowing that in them is you. Every last bit of you.
In a commencement speech you gave at Canterbury School, you spoke about JFK’s famous speech “We choose the Moon.” Well Jimmy, you shot the moon.
May you (and your family forever) feel the power of the love coming to you from this sacred place.