The Biggest Check Ever Written Was?

Chances are that when you write a check, you’re generally using it to cover something basic, like rent or a security deposit for an apartment. Have you ever taken the time to see what was the largest check ever written?

By Ryan Velez

Chances are that when you write a check, you’re generally using it to cover something basic, like rent or a security deposit for an apartment. Have you ever taken the time to see what was the largest check ever written? Celebrity Net Worth has covered the tale, and the final answer may be shocking for you. At risk of spoiling the ending, the number in question is $9 billion.

So, who would be on the hook for putting together such a massive number on a single check? The writer in question was Japanese investment bank Mitsubishi UFJ and the check receiver was struggling American bank Morgan Stanley. This took place in the midst of the height of the financial crisis in 2008. Morgan Stanley, like many other banks, was headed into a freefall and executives were desperate to find a lifeline from foreign entities. These include a state controlled Chinese bank for a time, but Mitsubishi UFJ was a potential match. However, urgency could potentially raise issues, prompting an emergency meeting over Columbus Day weekend in October 2008.

After 48 hours of negotiations, the two sides came up with a plan. Mitsubishi would invest $9 billion into Morgan Stanley in exchange for a 21% ownership stake and a 10% annual dividend. At any other point, the money would have just been wired over and this unremarkable story would be forgotten. However, there were some hitches. For one, it was a holiday weekend, meaning many banks wouldn’t be open until the following Tuesday or Wednesday. Second, Morgan Stanley couldn’t wait that long, potentially going under in a matter of hours. They wanted to make a formal announcement as soon as possible to stop stock prices from dropping any further.

One deal maker on the Morgan Stanley joked "too bad you can't just write a check!" While this gave both sides a laugh, they soon realized that this may be the solution to their issues after all. If Mitsubishi had the funds, there was no reason not to use it. A check would also allow Morgan Stanley to make the formal announcement they were looking for. After a quick call to discuss the possibility from the Japanese team, and a few hours, the Mitsubishi bankers returned to Morgan Stanley headquarters with likely history’s biggest check ever written.

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