Goldman CEO Blankfein Is Likely to Step Down in December
Posted May 18, 2018 3:21 p.m. EDT
A new era at Goldman Sachs is taking shape.
The Wall Street giant’s president, David M. Solomon, is likely to be named chief executive officer by the end of this year, and he is already structuring his senior management team, according to people familiar with the firm’s plans.
The time frame for Solomon’s ascension has evolved since he was named sole president of the firm in March, establishing him as the heir apparent to longtime chief executive Lloyd C. Blankfein, who is 63. But exactly when Solomon would take over from Blankfein, who colleagues say remains as engaged as ever in running Goldman, was not then clear. Blankfein said in an April television interview that his successor needed time to get better acquainted with parts of the company where he had never worked.
Yet in recent weeks, Blankfein has quietly laid the groundwork to step down late this year. His exit will likely take place in conjunction with the firm’s annual dinner for retired partners in December, two people said. Solomon, who is 56, would step in shortly after that.
The timetable is not settled and could change, these people cautioned.
Given what is likely to be a relatively short run-up to his promotion, Solomon is starting to sketch out the possibilities for a new management team, according to Goldman employees.
One big question is who will succeed him as Goldman president, a role that is often shared by two executives. Contenders include John Waldron, the firm’s co-head of investment banking; Eric S. Lane, who co-heads its investment management division; and Stephen M. Scherr, who runs the consumer banking division.
“The simple fact is that no decisions have been made,” said Jake Siewert, a Goldman spokesman.
The expected leadership transition will mark the end of a prosperous but rocky era for the Wall Street firm.
When Blankfein was named CEO in 2006, he took over a wildly profitable investment bank known for both its seasoned deal advisers and its aggressive stock and bond trading. Buying and selling assets using its own money as well as clients’ funds, Goldman made many billions of dollars in trading each year.
Among its most lucrative wagers was that the U.S. housing market would suffer in 2007. That market cratered, almost bringing down the banking industry and the entire U.S. economy.
Blankfein, a onetime gold salesman known for his intellect and dry wit, steered Goldman through that tumultuous period, but not without the firm suffering huge damage to its reputation. It was pilloried by politicians for appearing to profit at the expense of clients, and became synonymous with Wall Street avarice.
Since then, Goldman’s business model has been hurt by tough federal regulations intended to curb risk-taking on Wall Street. The firm, once reliant on its highflying traders, now has to look elsewhere for new revenue.
Under Solomon, Goldman’s investment banking business flourished, ranking among Wall Street’s top firms for advising on corporate mergers and acquisitions. But that is a much less profitable business than trading had been before the crisis. And other Goldman divisions, such as investment management and consumer banking, remain too small to pick up the slack.
Last year, Solomon and his co-president, Harvey M. Schwartz, presented Goldman’s board of directors with a plan for generating billions of dollars in additional revenue. Their ideas, which were accepted by directors, included expanding the investment-banking business into midsize cities like Dallas and Seattle, enlarging Goldman’s online-lending business and doing more trading of currencies and commodities on behalf of large corporations.
Last week, in the latest foray into markets that the traditional Goldman never would have touched, details emerged of a new credit card product it is working on wish Apple.
Solomon was informed in early March that Blankfein and the board had chosen him as the next CEO, say Goldman officials. Shortly after that, Schwartz, the other leading candidate for the top job, announced plans to retire.
Since then, Solomon has been looking hard at the firm’s troubled trading business. He is meeting with clients and Goldman employees around the world, often chatting about his hobby mixing electronic dance music as a DJ. And although the people regarded as his most likely lieutenants are all men, Solomon is pushing ahead with an ambitious plan to even out the gender imbalance at the male-dominated firm.
As the Solomon era approaches, some members of Blankfein’s inner circle are already leaving. Last week, two of the securities division’s co-heads announced plans to retire.
But aside from continuing the shift into more consumer-focused areas, it isn’t clear whether Goldman under Solomon will look much different from under his predecessor.