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George Doty, Who Guarded Goldman Sachs Purse, Dies at 94

George Doty, Who Controlled Purse at Goldman Sachs
George Doty , an accountant by training who helped establish Goldman, Sachs & Co.’s rigorous rules on spending and conduct, has died at 94. Source: Fordham University via Bloomberg

George Doty, an accountant by training who helped establish Goldman, Sachs & Co.’s rigorous rules on finances and conduct as partner in charge of administration for two decades until 1984, has died. He was 94.

He died on April 24 at his home in Rye, New York, following a long illness, according to a death notice released today by Graham Funeral Home in Rye.

As overseer of the firm’s purse strings, Doty handled financial matters of all sizes, ranging from the requisite capital contributions by new partners to expenditures on office furniture.

“Facetiously, we used to call him the ‘no’ partner, and the rest of us probably were ‘yes’ partners,” John C. Whitehead, 90, whose 37-year tenure at Goldman Sachs culminated in eight years as co-head of the firm, said today in an interview. “George was the cautionary voice: ‘Have you thought of this? Have you thought of that? What if such-and-such happens?’ He was a go-slow, be-careful partner, very valuable in helping make the firm’s decisions.”

Outside Wall Street, Doty, who was Catholic, was known as a major philanthropist, particularly to religious causes and institutions.

Supporting Catholic Groups

He and his wife of 63 years, Marie, who died in 2008, “have been especially good to Catholic concerns for alleviating poverty, strengthening higher education and supporting family life,” the Catholic Near East Welfare Association, a papal agency that promotes Christian unity and provides humanitarian assistance, said today in a blog posting.

At Fordham University, the Jesuit institution from which he graduated in 1938, he was “the man who has given more consistently than anyone in the university’s history,” according to a 2010 article on the school’s website. He was a former trustee at the New York-based institution.

Doty’s path to Wall Street came through being a partner at Lybrand, Ross Brothers & Montgomery, the accounting firm that is now part of PricewaterhouseCoopers. New York-based Goldman Sachs was one of Doty’s client accounts.

He also knew Whitehead from weekly meetings of their Naval Reserve unit.

“We had been having long talks about how to build up a truly great professional firm,” Doty told Charles D. Ellis for “The Partnership,” his 2008 book on the firm. “We got along well and I felt he really had something going at Goldman Sachs.”

Goldman Sachs Group Inc. is now the fifth-biggest U.S. bank by assets.

‘All About Control’

At Goldman, “Doty was all about control, and for him financial control came first,” Ellis wrote. “Expenses were watched closely. All partners’ tax returns were either done through the firm or turned in promptly for careful review by the firm.”

As an experienced auditor, Doty was on alert for any corner-cutting or cheating and “knew that the best way to prevent big trouble is to be persistently diligent on small troubles,” Ellis wrote.

In the late 1970s, Doty managed the firm’s relocation from 55 Broad Street. After mulling sites elsewhere in Manhattan, he and his colleagues decided to stay close to Wall Street and build at 85 Broad, which would be the firm’s famously unflashy home for three decades until 2010.

‘Everyone’s an Equal’

Under Doty, function easily trumped form. “When we set up an enormous trading room, we deliberately built it on one floor and had only one men’s room,” he told Ellis. “Standing side by side at urinals, everyone’s an equal.” He said he’d walk to the restroom slowly, “so it was easy to follow me” if you had a concern or suspicion to pass along.

William D. Cohan, in “Money and Power: How Goldman Sachs Came to Rule the World,” said Doty served as a counterbalance to the “risk-taking tendencies” of Gustave “Gus” Levy, who ran the firm’s trading department before becoming senior partner in 1969.

Doty told Cohan that Sidney Weinberg, the senior partner, and Walter Sachs, another partner, “used to be scared of Gus for taking them over the cliff because he was a better risk taker in the markets than they really had the stomach for. I was brought in at least partly as the counterbalance and to try and prevent us from getting too exposed.”

Starting a Career

George Espy Doty Sr. was born on Feb. 15, 1918, in Manhattan, the fourth of six children of George E. Doty, a doctor, and the former Lillian Bergen, according to the death notice.

He graduated from the private Collegiate School in Manhattan in 1934 and earned an undergraduate degree in 1938 from Fordham and a master’s degree from Columbia University in 1939. He worked at Price Waterhouse and General Motors Corp. before enlisting in the U.S. Navy in World War II.

He worked for 17 years at Lybrand, reaching senior partner, before joining Goldman Sachs in November 1964. He retired in 1984, becoming a limited partner. He is listed as one of 27 “senior directors” of the firm -- former employees who may be called on as advisers in their fields of expertise -- in the latest annual report.

He was a founding member and former chairman of the American Federation for Aging Research, which funds and supports work in the field of geriatric research and medicine.

Doty’s family has other Goldman ties. His two sons, George Jr. and William, worked at the firm, and William’s wife, Jana Hale Doty, is a retired partner. Elizabeth Doty, a daughter of George Jr., works in the firm’s London office, in the fundamental strategies group.

Survivors include his children, Anne Marie Paine of Fairfield, Connecticut; Barbara Doty of Sag Harbor, New York; Virginia Doty of New York City; George of New York City; and William of Harrison, New York, as well as 16 grandchildren and nine great-grandchildren, according to the death notice.

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