The Downs And Ups Of Goldman's Elevator Satirist

John LeFevre, the @GSElevator satirist outed by name and exposed as never having actually officially worked at Goldman Sachs by the New York Times’ Andrew Ross Sorkin a month ago, is becoming something of a lesson in the art of presentation. After having his forthcoming book axed from its fall list by his first publisher, Simon & Schuster, on March 6, Grove Atlantic yesterday announced that it was shelling out six figures for Straight to Hell: True Tales of Deviance and Excess in the World of Investment Banking



“The @GSElevator Twitter profile began tweeting some three years ago, tapping into a wave of anti-bank sentiment with messages such as ‘My garbage disposal eats better than 98 per cent of the world,’ and ‘I really do hope they have golf in Hell,’” the Financial Times’ Tracy Alloway wrote in reporting the initial deal by S&S’s Touchstone imprint in January.“@GSElevator has since attracted more than 600,000 followers on the social media network, dwarfing the number of followers of Goldman’s own official profile.”

When the book hits the retail and Amazon warehouse shelves in November, Grove Atlantic “will be careful to describe it accurately, noting that it is ‘an unusual memoir,’” its publisher, Morgan Entrekin, tells the New York Times’ Julie Bosman. Earlier in the conversation he had allowed: “I know he’s made some misstatements. How shocking in a banker.”

Although both Goldman and LeFevre agree that he had been offered a position, later withdrawn, to be head of Goldman’s Asia Debt Syndicate in its Hong Kong office, they did not agree as to whether he actually had ridden its elevators as an “employee” since was not formally hired for the three months he was there in 2010 before contractual complications soured the deal.

There’s no dispute, however, that LeFevre did have a front-row seat on the investment banking industry in the Aughts and beyond, having risen from an internship at Solomon Brothers in London in 2000 to increasingly plugged-in positions. 

In an “open letter to haters” published on Business Insider earlier this month, LeFevre wrote: “Newsflash: GSElevator has never been about elevators. And, it's never been specifically about Goldman Sachs; it's about illuminating Wall Street culture in a fun and entertaining way. Without highlighting the obvious evolution of the tweets into more generally appealing observations, let’s start with the simple fact that each of my tweets says ‘Sent from Twitter for Mac,’ hardly the work of someone pretending to be hiding in the walls of 200 West.”

More succinctly, he said, “…any person who actually thought my Twitter feed was literally about verbatim conversations overheard in the elevators of Goldman Sachs is an idiot.”

“John’s satirical voice captures the outrageous, excessive yet fascinating lives and culture of a certain segment of the international banking elite. His work is amusing, disturbing, and at times shocking,” Grove Atlantic’s Entrekin said in a statement  quoted by the Wall Street Journal’s Steven Russolillo.

“He’s using hyperbole and exaggeration as a device,” Entrekin told the NYT’s Bosman. “He’s not an investigative reporter. We’ve got to frame it and present it as exactly what it is. You’ve got to make sure you’re clear and forthright about what you’re presenting.”

After @GSElevator lost the first book deal, Goldman Sachs archly tweeted “Guess elevators go up and down,” Sital S. Patel reports on “MarketWatch.” And yesterday, @GSElevator tweeted “… And elevators also go back up…”

In unrelated news this morning, Johnson & Johnson has hired Ernesto Quinteros to be its Chief Design Officer, a senior-level position on the level of Chief Marketing Officer, according to Jonathan D. Rockoff’s story in the Wall Street Journal.

Indeed, "If you have a defective product, design is not going to help you overcome that," Stuart Leslie, president of 4sight Inc., a product and packaging-development consulting firm that has worked with J&J, tells Rockoff. 

But “a product that is ‘wonderfully designed sells itself,’" Sandi Peterson, the J&J executive who created the new job, says. “Design has a huge benefit on the marketing side, if it's done well."

So the takeaway is that how you frame your product is just as important as the product itself, assuming it’s real and true and useful at its core. Be we all knew that, right?

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