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Here's Why Goldman Insiders Say This 'Mongrel' Will Succeed Lloyd Blankfein Instead of Gary Cohn

David Solomon
Source: Milken Institute
David Solomon

The head of Goldman Sachs's investment bank, David Solomon, is the "dark horse contender" to succeed CEO Lloyd Blankfein, according to Reuters.

In March this year, reports that Lloyd Blankfein was set to depart Goldman Sachs, sent the who-shall-succeed him conspiracy into overdrive.

We broke the news that Michael Sherwood, the firm's top rainmaker in London, was assuming Gary Cohn's role as head of the partnership committee, suddenly catapulting him to a lead position in the race.

Michael Evans, co-head of the securities business, was also mentioned as a top candidate.

Our sources at the bank also included Solomon, the head of the investment banking division, as a serious contender.

Reuters spoke to a ton of Goldman insiders that say Solomon, not Sherwood or Evans (or even Cohn's right-hand man, COO Cohn) is the front-runner for CEO.

Solomon was poached from Bear Stearns by Blankfein in 1999.

One of the reasons that Solomon may be a favorite, is by process of elimination, he appears to be the least controversial contender, according to Reuters:

Gary Cohn... has long been considered his heir apparent. But Cohn came from the trading side of the business, and his leadership during a time of controversy could be a handicap, insiders say.

Yet another potential contender is J. Michael Evans, a vice chairman who oversees Asia and growth markets. But Evans irked some colleagues last year as co-chairman of an internal committee that analyzed Goldman's missteps during the financial crisis... Evans angled for a more prominent role after the committee's work was done, they said, and other top executives were not pleased with the publicity surrounding him.

Elevating a banker to CEO would certainly mark a departure from a long tradition of securities guys at the top, a source told us, and would go some way to reminding people that Goldman is more than just a place where exotic instruments are created and traded.

Installing 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 recent promotion of Richard Gnodde to join Solomon and John Weinberg as co-head of investment banking, could be a sign that the firm is readying Solomon for a bigger role.

Other reasons Solomon is a star, according to the Reuters report:

  • "He has been behind some spectacular deals, even if he is not famous for them."
  • "Clients love him, we love him— he's actually a really good guy. Competitors don't love him necessarily, but they respect him" —Goldman banker.
  • He's modest; humble; tenacious; hard-working; shrewd.
  • His "bland exterior masks a savvy negotiator who can turn on his charm as readily as he can pound fists on the table."
  • He has "a very large presence in meetings and rooms... You also wouldn't mind hanging out with David after the meeting's over. That's a pretty unique combination."

Going against Solomon, says William Cohan, who knows him from writing books about Bear and Goldman: "He is just a mongrel. He's not a thoroughbred from Goldman Sachs." The translation of that, we think, is that Solomonisn't armed with an ivy league degree; had a B-plus average; and isn't a life-long Goldman Sachser.

This story originally appeared on Business Insider

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