John Halle Gutfreund was born in Manhattan on Sept. 14, 1929, to Manuel and Mary Gutfreund. His father, originally a butcher, became a meat wholesaler and distributor and was able to move his family to affluent Scarsdale in Westchester County. John attended Lawrenceville, the boarding school in New Jersey, and then Oberlin College in Ohio, where he majored in English. Drafted into the Army, Mr. Gutfreund served in the Korean War.
Returning to civilian life, he briefly considered pursuing a scholar’s career in literature but in the end opted for finance and joined Salomon Brothers, recruited by William R. Salomon, a family acquaintance whose father had helped found the firm and who became a managing partner.
Mr. Gutfreund started in 1953 as a $45-a-week trainee on the municipal bond desk. In 1958, he married Joyce Low, daughter of a Wall Street financier, and they had three sons. By 1963, Mr. Gutfreund had become Salomon’s youngest nonfamily partner.
By 1985, Mr. Gutfreund was at the top of the financial world. Business Week labeled him the “king of Wall Street.” Salomon’s competitive advantage over rivals was demonstrated by its early dominance in mortgage securities.
Mr. Gutfreund, who lived in Manhattan, married Susan Kaposta in 1981; both of their first marriages had ended in divorce. She survives him. Besides his son J. P., from his second marriage, he is survived by three other sons, Nicholas, Owen and Joshua, from his first marriage to Joyce Low; and four grandchildren.