Goldman CEO Role Is ‘Tough Job to Leave,’ Blankfein Says

Goldman Sachs Group CEO Lloyd C. Blankfein
Lloyd C. Blankfein, chairman and chief executive officer of Goldman Sachs Group Inc. Photographer: Scott Eells/Bloomberg

Lloyd C. Blankfein, chairman and chief executive officer of Goldman Sachs Group Inc. for the past six years, said it’s a “tough job to leave” and he’s unlikely to follow his predecessors into government.

“When you think of my last five or six predecessors, five of them left because they went to the government,” he told reporters after participating in a discussion at the Chicago Club. “I would say the government isn’t going to call me up. So that means staying forever or dying at my desk.”

Blankfein, 57, was named to his current job in June 2006 to succeed Henry Paulson, who was nominated to serve as President George W. Bush’s Treasury Secretary. During Blankfein’s tenure, New York-based Goldman Sachs generated the highest profits in its history and also the biggest losses since becoming a public company in 1999.

“I’ll tell you why this is a tough job to leave,” Blankfein said. “When things are going really well it’s the best job in the world and you wouldn’t want to leave. And when things are going badly you can’t leave because your sense of responsibility won’t let you.”

Goldman Sachs converted to a bank in the aftermath of the 2008 financial crisis. The firm paid $550 million to settle a Securities and Exchange Commission claim that it misled investors in a 2007 mortgage-linked security, and the Senate’s Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations accused the company of misleading investors.

Corzine, Rubin

Before Paulson, leaders of the firm included Jon Corzine, who became a U.S. senator and New Jersey governor; Stephen Friedman, who served as director of the National Economic Council; Robert Rubin, Treasury secretary under President Bill Clinton; John C. Whitehead, deputy secretary of state; and John L. Weinberg, who stepped down as senior partner and chairman in 1990 and died in 2006.

“I don’t know,” Blankfein said about when he’ll decide to leave. “People who’ve done this don’t know their mood until their mood switches.”

Gustave Levy, who preceded Weinberg and Whitehead, was running the firm when he collapsed and died in 1976. Weinberg’s father, Sidney Weinberg, remained involved in the firm until his own death in 1969, according to Bill Cohan, author of “Money and Power: How Goldman Sachs Came to Rule the World,” and a Bloomberg View columnist.

Blankfein made his comments at the Chicago Club, where he participated in a discussion with Motorola Solutions Inc. Chairman and CEO Greg Brown. Goldman Sachs is the fifth-largest U.S. bank by assets.

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