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Loss is a rare mistake for JPMorgan CEO

The reputation that Jamie Dimon honed for decades on Wall Street has been severely damaged in a matter of days.

In the 1980s and 1990s, he was the protege of banking industry legend Sanford Weill. In the early 2000s, he took over Bank One, an institution few believed was fixable, and restored it to a profit.

And in 2008 and 2009, at JPMorgan Chase, Dimon built a fortress strong enough to stay profitable during the financial crisis.

His zeal for cost-cutting and perceived mastery of risk did more than keep JPMorgan strong enough to bail out two failing competitors, Bear Stearns and Washington Mutual. It gave him a kind of street cred during the post-crisis years when he lashed out at regulators who sought to rein in banks and at Occupy Wall Street protesters who raged against the banks.

Now all that is on the line.

Dimon had to face stock analysts and reporters on Thursday and confess to a "flawed, complex, poorly reviewed, poorly executed and poorly monitored" trading strategy that lost a surprise $2 billion.

Dimon, 56, grew up in Queens, the grandson of a Greek immigrant. His father was a stockbroker who worked at Merrill Lynch.

Weill had been his father's boss at a previous job and recruited the younger Dimon to American Express.

Weill went on to buy a host of companies, including Smith Barney and Travelers, and Dimon led some of those divisions.

Dimon was the heir apparent but had started to clash with Weill. Weill was insecure about Dimon's growing assertiveness, and Dimon often showed his temper in meetings. Weill fired Dimon in 1998.

In 2000, Dimon became CEO of Bank One, a Chicago bank that was losing money. By 2003, he had turned the bank around, and in 2004 it merged with JPMorgan Chase. Dimon became CEO of JPMorgan in 2006.

His admission of the $2 billion mistake last week left some analysts asking whether his grip is slipping and whether the bank's more than $2 trillion in assets have become too big for him to manage.

More likely, some other analysts said, it is a statement about how, 3 1/2 years after the crisis, banks still conduct impossibly complex trades that are difficult to track.