Winkelried’s “Retirement” Caught Goldman Insiders By Surprise


Yesterday the guy who jointly held the second highest position at Goldman Sachs announced he would retire in march. The official word from Goldman’s spokesman Jon Winkelried’s retirement was actually planned as early as last summer but he stayed on because of the financial crisis. Why is the 49 year old leaving now?

You already know the official answer. He “plans to spend time with his family.” Actually, Winkelried’s story is a bit more interesting because of his horsey habits. He want to spend more time with his family and on his Colorado ranch, where he owns a lot of very expensive horses.

In the past year, however, Winkelried has become a somewhat unpopular guy at Goldman. It fell to him to play the villian as the firm pulled back in light of the financial meltdown. He led the drive to fire nearly 5000 employees at Goldman, leaving a sour taste in many current and former employees mouths.

And despite the word from Goldman’s officialdom that Windkelried’s retirement has been a long time coming, insiders at Goldman have said they were very surprised by the news. Many only learned of it when it was reported by David Faber yesterday on CNBC.

Is there something more than meets the eye to this story? The whispers of internal tensions at Goldman have been much muted over the past year. Winkelried’s departure, however, seems to strengthen the hand of Gary Cohn, who will now hold the role of president of Goldman on his own. Cohn is an old friend and ally of CEO Lloyd Blankfein, and both of them come from the trading side of Goldman rather than the investment banking side that produced Winkelried. The question that many are asking is whether this marks a further consolidation of power by the traders.

Unfortunately, we may never know what really went on behind the closed executive suite doors at Goldman. It’s hard not to wonder whether Winkelried, who was one of the executives who went without any bonus for last year and declined any severance upon his departure, simply decided that the job of co-president of Goldman Sachs wasn’t worth having if the money wasn’t there anymore.