An unapologetic trader of the old school, Lee Amaitis, the 54-year-old CEO of Cantor Fitzgerald International, helped rebuild CFI's New Yorkbased parent company after most of its brokers were killed in the terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center on September 11, 2001. Now Amaitis is leading Cantor Fitzgerald back into the sharp-elbowed world of interdealer brokerage.
He has been named to run a new London-based spin-off, BGC Partners, that returns Cantor to its roots as a brokerage catering to investment banks. Of the 658 Cantor staff members who died in the attacks, 400 were traditional voice brokers. "There was," explains Amaitis, "simply no way to replace those brokers" while trying to keep other operations afloat. So he and a management team led by Cantor CEO Howard Lutnick used Cantor's ESpeed electronic trading platform to convert Cantor's New Yorkbased Treasury bond operation into an all-electronic service, while rebuilding an institutional equity business focused on money managers and developing the European operation.
"Cantor today is a very different business," says Amaitis. "It is more of a broker-dealer, so it made sense to separate the old voice broker into a new partnership." He expects to hire hundreds of new brokers, particularly in the U.S.
Amaitis, who started out as a bond trader in 1977, doesn't believe that adverse publicity about his management style will affect BGC's hiring push. Last year Cantor broker Stephen Horkulak successfully sued the firm for £912,000 ($1.63 million), complaining that Amaitis had bullied and demeaned him. (Cantor has appealed the level of the award.) British newspapers had a field day with the trial's tales of foul language, drinking, drug taking and visits to lap-dancing clubs, referred to as "the ballet" at Cantor.
"It was unfortunate, but the whole issue of my management style has been completely overblown," says Amaitis. "I have managed many, many people and put them into positions where they can make money and the firm can make money." Launching BGC Partners will give him another chance to demonstrate that.