While at Credit Suisse, Nides helped broker negotiations in which star executives famously gave back $421 million in bonuses to help the Swiss bank recover from the bursting of the tech bubble. "The first time I met Tom Nides it cost me and my partners $100 million, and I still like him," says Bennett Goodman, one of those star executives, who is now at the Blackstone Group ( BX). "He's really good at disarming people and sort of charming them and then taking control," says Ambassador Patricia Haslach, Iraq Transition Coordinator at the State Department. "He's very impressive. I've never really worked for anybody quite like him." Beyond stating a clear desire to return to the private sector, Nides claims he doesn't know what he wants to do next. This claim is not entirely believable. Ask Kantor about Nides' future, and the former U.S. Trade Rep. is a bit more guarded. "I literally wouldn't talk about that because we do discuss that," Kantor says. Whatever it is, it will likely make Nides oft-repeated description of himself as "just a lucky kid from Duluth, Minnesota," sound even less plausible than it already does. -- Written by Dan Freed in New York.