GASPARINO: Vice-Chairmen Michael Sherwood And Michael Evans Are Front-Runners For Goldman CEO

lloyd blankfein successor

Talk has been swirling around the departure of Goldman Sachs CEO Lloyd Blankfein in the past few days.

The bank has denied the story.

Now, Charlie Gasparino is reporting that the front-runners for CEO are Vice-Chairmen Michael Sherwood of Michael Evans.

We broke the news yesterday that Sherwood had been tapped to succeed President and COO Gary Cohn as Chairman of the Partnership Committee, perhaps a signal of more upper echelon changes to come.

Last week, Gasparino reported that after having spoken with Lloyd Blankfein’s friends, it appears the Goldman chief wants out this year.

Though the bank denies the story, based on the average reign of a Goldman CEO, that Blankfein would depart the bank in 2011 is not an outrageous suggestion.

But of course, that begs the question: who will replace him?

Meet the candidates >
Gasparino says Sherwood or Evans. However, Blankfein’s deputy is the more likely candidate.

The favourite

A natural successor is the current chief’s right-hand-man and best friend, President and COO Gary Cohn. Like Blankfein, he also began his career as a commodities trader, and early on became Blankfein’s “corporate problem solver.”

A Goldman source told us that Cohn is an obvious choice. “He’s great in front of a crowd, and smart as hell,” the source said.

Though Cohn keeps a low public profile, he’s been described as a “larger-than-life figure inside Goldman.”

He regenerated the firm’s mortgage business, and, together with Blankfein, transformed what was an “elite private partnership with a reputation as a sober adviser on corporate mergers to a take-no-prisoners public company increasingly focused on using its own capital to drive its business for clients, counterparties and the firm’s own trading accounts,” according to the Wall Street Journal.

After Cohn, the race is a tie.

There’s Vice Chairmans Michael Evans, Michael Sherwood and John Weinberg, two of whom are now allegedly the most likely candidates. Weinberg is co-head of the investment bank, while the former two both rose up through the trading business.

For A  Place

Sherwood is said to be a “protégé of Blankfein’s,” and the firm’s top UK banker. The fact that he’s English diminishes his chances; he also, like Blankfein, had a reputation for brashness and ‘colourful language’ in his early years with the firm. But he’s been with the bank 25 years, and Goldman appreciates its veterans. And, he’s just been appointed as Chairman of the Partnership Committee, to succeed Cohn.

The Partnership Committee is responsible for personnel development at Goldman, and career management issues, and together with the Management Committee, forms the governance structure of the bank.

As for Weinberg, it’s in his blood: his father John headed the firm between 1976 and 1990, and his grandfather Sidney was the chief from 1930 to 1969.

Out of the three though — and before the current bout of news surrounding Sherwood — Evans in particular has been the focus of an increased amount of attention since he was tapped to co-chair the firm’s business standards committee. According to the FT, “in some scenarios, Mr Evans could become a co-president alongside Gary Cohn… In others, Mr Evans is mentioned as a potential successor to Mr Blankfein.”

Then there are the outliers, but strong candidates nonetheless.

The Outliers

David Solomon is head of the investment banking division. Elevating him to CEO would certainly mark a departure from a long tradition of securities guys at the top, and would go some way to reminding people that Goldman is more than just a place where exotic instruments are created and traded. Similar to installing Weinberg at the top, Solomon as CEO would be a signal that the firm is returning — or wants to appear to return — to its roots an as investment bank, and the idea that it is undertaking socially useful projects.

A source at Goldman also threw David Heller’s name out there. Heller is the bank’s co-head of securities, and is a veteran of the firm, having joined in the 1980s. He is “possibly the one person other than Gary [Cohn] who could someday succeed Blankfein,” ABC reported in a story about the best-paid executives at the firm.

Our bet is still on Cohn at this stage.

Gary Cohn

Current Position: President and Chief Operating Officer

Other positions at the bank: Co-head of global Securities businesses including Fixed Income, Currency and Commodities Division; co-COO of FICC; head of Commodities.

Been with Goldman since: 1990

Michael Evans

Current Position: Vice Chairman and Global Head of Growth Markets

Other positions at the bank: Chairman of Goldman Sachs Asia; global co-head of the securities business; co-head of the Equities Division.

Been with Goldman since: 1993

Michael Sherwood

Current position: Vice Chairman and co-chief executive officer of Goldman Sachs International

Other positions at the bank: Global co-head of the securities business; head of the Fixed Income, Currency and Commodities Division in Europe; co-head of the Capital Markets Group in the Americas; head of Corporate Bond Trading; co-head of Emerging Markets Debt.

Been with Goldman since: 1986

John Weinberg

Current Role: Vice Chairman and co-head of Investment Banking Division

Other positions at the bank: Co-head of the Investment Banking Division in the Americas; co-head of the Investment Banking Services Department.

Been with Goldman since: 1997

David Solomon

Current Position: Co-Head of the Investment Banking Division and chair of the Investment Banking Operating Committee and Global Recruiting Council

Other positions at the bank: Global head of the Financing Group.

Been with Goldman since: 1999

David Heller

Current Position: Co-Head of Global Securities Division and sits on the firm's Securities Division Operating Committee, Firmwide Risk Committee, Business Practices Committee, Finance Committee and Compensation Committee.

Other positions at the bank: Co-head of Goldman's Japanese equity business; global head of equity derivatives trading.

Been with Goldman since: 1989

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