For a guy who majored in psychology in college, Jamie Dimon has remarkably little patience for having his head shrunk. Ever since Dimon was pushed out of Citigroup in 1998 by CEO Sandy Weill, his mentor and friend, and became CEO of Chicago-based Bank One, Wall Streeters have speculated that he had something to prove. By turning the beleaguered lender into a financial-services powerhouse, the thinking went, Dimon would demonstrate just how essential he had been in helping build Citigroup. Perhaps he would even eventually merge Bank One with Citigroup and succeed Weill in a final act of redemption. But as recently as last summer, Dimon was dismissing this theory as nonsense. "Whoever says that I have something to prove doesn't know me that well," the fast-talking New Yorker told TIME. Last week, even after announcing Bank One's $58 billion merger with New York City--based J.P. Morgan Chase, Dimon was sticking to his lines. "It is all psychobabble," he said late last week. "I didn't need to come back to New York."
But come back he has, and by combining the retail network of Bank One with J.P. Morgan Chase's investment-banking power, Dimon is setting up what will arguably be the only broad, financial-services behemoth that can give his alma mater a serious run for its money. Although the two banks' retail customers shouldn't immediately experience any changes as a result of the marriage--Bank One's consumer business is centered in the Middle West and Southwest, J.P. Morgan Chase's in the Northeast, with an overlap only in Texas--shareholders are counting on Dimon to boost their fortunes sooner rather than later. Dimon won't get the top job until J.P. Morgan Chase's current CEO, William Harrison, steps down in 2006--at the very same time that Dimon's old boss Weill will be exiting stage left from his role as Citi chairman, having already given the CEO job to his anointed successor, Charles Prince. But Dimon will not be waiting that long to shake things up in the newly combined entity, which keeps the J.P. Morgan Chase name, and will be the second largest U.S. bank and second largest credit-card issuer after Citi.
It has been a long, circular journey for Dimon, 47, who was born in New York City with financial data encoded in his genes. Dimon's Greek-American grandfather and father were stockbrokers catering to fellow immigrants in the city, and it was through his dad Theodore, who worked with Weill at Shearson, that Dimon met his eventual mentor. While studying economics (his other major) at Tufts University, Dimon wrote a term paper about one of Weill's earliest takeovers and used it to persuade the Wall Street veteran to give him a summer internship.