Jeff Peek came to CIT ( CIT) in 2003 to shake up a sleepy lender.

A Princeton University graduate and regular on New York's social circuit, Peek climbed the ranks at Merrill Lynch, eventually running its asset management business before getting pushed out in a power struggle with (now-former) CEO Stan O'Neal.

He then moved to a high-level job at Credit Suisse ( CS). When he joined CIT -- now on the brink of bankruptcy -- it was with the notion that he would shortly succeed CEO Albert Gamper and did so the following year. He added the chairmanship of the board of directors to his duties at the start of 2005.

And his ambitions were not small.

Jeffrey M. Peek

"I stand before you today convinced CIT has the right stuff to be a leader, not just another lender," he told investors and analysts in November 2005. Peek was unavailable for comment on this story, according to a CIT spokesman.

With headquarters in Livingston, N.J., CIT was an unglamorous lender to small and midsized companies. Peek moved the company's base of operations to a brand-new, 300,000 square-foot, glass-encased office tower on Fifth Avenue, near Bryant Park.

The Wall Street Journal reported on Thursday that regulators were not going to bail out CIT, causing its shares to plummet nearly 75%. CIT needs about $5.6 billion to avoid a bankruptcy filing, according to a report Thursday by bond research firm CreditSights.

His main strategy was to generate lots of fee-based revenue, as opposed to the boring old practice of simply lending for a few pennies more than it was borrowing, according to Sameer Gokhale, analyst at Keefe, Bruyette & Woods.

If you liked this article you might like

Bank of America Just Topped Warren Buffett's Dividend Benchmark

Bank On It: Biggest U.S. Lenders Pass Fed's Stress Tests

5 Things You Must Know Before the Market Opens Friday

Wall Street's Biggest Banks Score High on First Round of Stress Tests

Here's How to Play New Fed Stress Tests on the 34 Biggest U.S. Banks