LONDON–Lehman Brothers is gone, but anyone wanting to savor the distinct taste of financial ruin that its name evokes has ways to do so.
With a dram of Lehman Brothers Scotch, say.
“It has a contrite, bereft peatiness,” says James Green, a 34-year-old London entrepreneur who has created a new liquor line with the doomed bank’s logo.
He is describing his flagship Scotch whisky, labeled Ashes of Disaster. “The remit to the master blender was to taste the ups and downs of the economic devastation of 2008.”
That year Lehman hit the rocks, helping trigger the global financial crisis. But its name lives on.
“Lehman moment” is shorthand for failure of companies, politicians and countries. Rap lyrics, cartoons and concept artists have invoked the name.
Lehman Brothers was once a strong brand in a good way. Founded in 1850, it was a global finance leader going into the 21st century.
But after Lehman filed for bankruptcy in September 2008, already-shaky markets swooned, and governments poured money into bailouts.
“Lehman moment” soon came to describe problems elsewhere, etymologist Barry Popik says. China is a frequent sufferer, judging from news reports.
In his 2011 book, “Our Queen,” journalist Robert Hardman wrote that for Britain’s royal family, the “Lehman moment is still the day, in 1987, when Prince Edward put on Tudor fancy dress and cajoled certain members of his family to take part in a televised game show,” making them look less than royal.
The name appeared in movie and song. In the 2010 movie “Despicable Me,” villain-turned-hero Gru enters “Bank of Evil” through a urinal, seeking funds for his plot to steal the moon. Beneath the bank’s sign appeared: “Formerly Lehman Brothers.”
A 2009 Black Eyed Peas lyric about the high life rhymed Lehman with semen. Dre Murray in 2013 rapped: “And the boy stay scheming, thief like Lehman.”
A Danish artist group dubbed itself “Lehman Brothers” for several Copenhagen art-gallery exhibitions exploring capitalism’s underbelly.
The exhibitions riffed on the crisis’s causes in multimedia works that included a gram of cocaine blown by a fan across a glass table and frozen fish thawing to represent themes like greed and inequality.
(From a vodka ad campaign in Romanian Playboy, uncensored here.)