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Blankfein’s Reemergence Means He’s Staying at Goldman

Lloyd Blankfein, CEO of Goldman Sachs speaks to Gary Kaminsky on April 25, 2012.
CNBC
Lloyd Blankfein, CEO of Goldman Sachs speaks to Gary Kaminsky on April 25, 2012.

Lloyd Blankfein isn’t going anywhere.

That's the message people on Wall Street, including many inside of Goldman Sachs, are taking from Blankfein's appearance on Squawk on the Street today.

The chief executive and chairman of Goldman Sachs has been in his post since 2006, making him the longest-running chief executive on Wall Street. He’s now been the longest-running sole head of the firm in at least a generation. (For much of its recent history, Goldman was run by co-chairmen or co-CEOs.)

For at least the last two years, there have been whispers that Blankfein might retire. Lots of speculation has focused on who might succeed him as head of the firm.

But today’s media appearances have silenced those whispers. The word on Wall Street now is that Blankfein is going to be around for an “extended period.” (That allusion to the Fed's interest rate policy is a bit of what passes for humor on Wall Street.)

People within Goldman tell me that they believe Blankfein’s re-emergence is an indication that he is not planning on leaving the firm soon.

“Why put Lloyd out there if he’s retiring this year or next?” one person said.

Blankfein himself said he has no plans to leave his position at the firm.

Until this morning's appearance on Squawk on the Street, Blankfein had not given an interview on live television for two years.

In fact, he hadn’t given many interviews at all. There was one with Jessica Pressler at New York Magazine. Another with a British newspaper. And, of course, there were the appearances before Capitol Hill panels.

But—especially compared with other CEOs at Wall Street firms, such as Jamie Dimon—Blankfein had attempted to maintain a low profile.

This strategy hasn’t worked. The less the public saw of Blankfein, the easier it was to create a demonology of Blankfein and his firm. Vampire Squids and all that.

Now Blankfein is "going public," as one person at the firm referred to it. CNBC had him first, but he’s doing the rounds with other media as well. Insiders say that if this round of interviews goes well, we’ll likely see more of Blankfein.

When asked why he had agreed to be interviewed, Blankfein explained the thinking behind his new visibility.

“Obviously it has occurred to us that we haven’t done everything right when it comes to how we deal with the public,” Blankfein said.

Blankfein went on to explain that as an “institutional, wholesale firm with no real consumer businesses,” Goldman didn’t really have the “muscles” for directly addressing the public.

Insiders at Goldman say that Blankfein’s appearance marks a major change of strategy.

“There’s been a decision that the firm needs to be more open. Lloyd going on TV is a reflection of that,” a person at the firm said.

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