Goldman chief Lloyd Blankfein says report of his departure didn’t come from him

VIDEO: REUTERS
Blankfein speaking at the Bloomberg Global Business Forum in New York, in September 2017.
Blankfein speaking at the Bloomberg Global Business Forum in New York, in September 2017.PHOTO: REUTERS

NEW YORK (BLOOMBERG) - Lloyd Blankfein said a report of his exit may be premature.

The Goldman Sachs Group chief executive officer pushed back on Friday (March 9) against a Wall Street Journal report that said he plans to step down as soon as the end of this year.

“I feel like Huck Finn listening to his own eulogy,” Blankfein said in a post on Twitter.

The Journal, citing people familiar with the matter that it didn’t identify, said Blankfein, 63, could leave this year and the bank intended to replace him with one of its two co-presidents, David Solomon or Harvey Schwartz.

Nowhere was the news met with more surprise than inside Goldman Sachs. Members of the management committee were stunned, according to people familiar with the matter.

Blankfein, who steered the firm through the financial crisis, has yet to set a timetable for his departure or discuss his plans with senior colleagues, one of the people said.

It’s hardly a secret that Blankfein might move on in the near future. Solomon and Schwartz have been jockeying to succeed Blankfein for months.

Blankfein, the son of a postal worker who grew up in a Brooklyn housing project, has become a billionaire from his Goldman Sachs career. He rose through the firm’s trading business and took the top job in 2006, when Hank Paulson left to become Treasury secretary.

Much of his work in recent years has been repairing the bank’s image after Congressional hearings and media scrutiny focusing on the firm’s role in the mortgage bond bubble that helped bring about the financial crisis.

Mike Mayo, a bank analyst at Wells Fargo & Co, said the bank has four good contenders as CEO a year from now.

In addition to Solomon and Schwartz, Mayo said in a Bloomberg Television interview he’d consider former Goldman president and Trump administration adviser Gary Cohn a candidate, as well as Blankfein, “because it’s not certain he will be gone and we’ve had these reports in the past.”