Andy Yemma – John Lothian Profiles, Part One

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John Lothian

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Veteran PR specialist and Journalist Andy Yemma Shares Career Insights and 1987 Stock Market Crash Memories in Exclusive Interview with John Lothian Profiles

During an interview with John Lothian News as part of the John Lothian Profiles video series, veteran public relations specialist and journalist Andy Yemma shared insights and anecdotes from his career journey. Beginning with his teenage years and a paper route, Yemma eventually pursued journalism at the University of Texas. His early career included reporting on sports at the Austin Statesman and serving as the editor of The Daily Texan. Later, Yemma’s professional path took him through various roles at United Press International across Missouri, Iowa, and ultimately Chicago. He then transitioned to a position as the business editor at the Chicago Sun-Times before he made a move to the field of public relations. In 1987, he was appointed as the head of media relations at the Chicago Mercantile Exchange.

When Yemma joined the CME, Jack Sandner held the position of chairman, while Leo Melamed served as the chairman of the executive committee, a role Yemma noted as being of greater influence. Concurrently, Bill Brodsky held the position of president.

The interview dug into the dynamics of the CME during the 1987 stock market crash, highlighting margin calls to firms and the subsequent finger-pointing between New York and Chicago. Yemma emphasized the importance of perception management during the crisis and how circuit breakers were introduced as a result of negotiations.

Additionally, the interview touched on the aftermath of the 1987 crash, including congressional hearings and the role of the mainstream financial media in framing the events as a Chicago vs. Wall Street rivalry. He talked about how program trading and portfolio insurance were blamed for the crash. He noted the coverage by The Washington Post, which had never covered finance before.

Yemma credited Brodsky with using his connections on Wall Street to broker the negotiations that led to the circuit breakers within months of the crash.

He said the blue ribbon committee put into place after the stock market crash came up with some good recommendations. Yemma discussed the significance of academic studies that supported the futures market’s innocence in the crash and the changing dynamics within the Chicago Mercantile Exchange’s leadership.

He talked about the rivalry between Leo Melamed and Jack Sandner and how that evolved over the eight years Yemma was at the CME as Melamed retired and Sandner was replaced as chairman and then ran again and won.

It was rather “dicey” for the last few years Yemma was at the CME because of the exchange politics, as Sandner “wanted to erase Leo from a lot of stuff,” Yemma said.

Yemma said Sandner resented that Melamed took all the credit for Globex and he wanted his name associated with it as well. Sandner froze Melamed out of all Globex marketing and policy decisions, and it was not a good situation, Yemma said. Brodsky would often be the referee between the two headstrong exchange leaders.

The politics caused Yemma to leave the CME and he joined the New York Stock Exchange. He found he was only one of about five people hired from the outside in the last 20 years at the exchange, and the NYSE had a very insular culture. He left the NYSE after a year and a half and went into agency PR.

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