- CEO will continue to work while undergoing treatment
- Biopsy last week confirmed lymphoma diagnosis, he says
Lloyd Blankfein, chief executive officer of Goldman Sachs Group Inc., said he has a “highly curable” form of lymphoma and will undergo chemotherapy over the next several months.
“My doctors have advised me that during the treatment, I will be able to work substantially as normal, leading the firm,” Blankfein, 61, said Tuesday in a statement. “My doctors’ and my own expectation is that I will be cured.”
While the statement didn’t give details about Blankfein’s form of lymphoma, there are several types of the cancer, which begins in the body’s immune system. One of the most curable is Hodgkin’s lymphoma, which strikes about 5,000 men in the U.S. each year. Treatment has improved substantially in the past 50 years, with almost 90 percent of patients surviving for at least five years. The most common form is non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, a more lethal type that affects 38,000 men annually.
Blankfein said he underwent a series of tests late this summer after not feeling well and a biopsy last week confirmed lymphoma. He received the final diagnosis midday Monday and notified the board at around 4 p.m., a person familiar with the matter said, asking not to be identified discussing the internal talks.
Blankfein, a Brooklyn native and Harvard University graduate who rose through the firm’s currency and commodity trading unit, took over as CEO when Henry Paulson left to become U.S. Treasury Secretary in 2006.
He led his firm through the 2008 financial crisis in better shape than many rivals, allowing it to bounce back quicker and post record profit in 2009. The firm then faced its own reputational trauma amid regulatory fines and a congressional inquiry into its sales of mortgage securities before the credit crunch.
Blankfein has assumed a more public role in recent years, often appearing with local politicians around the country to support the firm’s philanthropic initiatives. While Goldman Sachs’s profitability has been crimped by new rules and a slowdown in trading, revenue increases in investment banking and asset management and cuts to compensation costs have helped keep returns ahead of most rivals.
Blankfein was scheduled to speak on a panel discussion Monday night at an event sponsored by the Partnership for New York City. He had to pull out and Goldman Sachs President Gary Cohn, who arrived on a plane from Singapore earlier in the day, took his place. Cohn, 55, may be called upon to assume some of Blankfein’s obligations during his treatment, the person said.
Cohn has been president since 2006 and has long been considered one of the top successor candidates. Chief Financial Officer Harvey Schwartz, 51; Vice Chairman Michael Sherwood, 50; David Solomon, 53, co-head of investment banking; and Pablo Salame, 49, who helps lead the trading division, are all seen as potential choices, according to current and former colleagues.
“Blankfein obviously is a great leader, but they have a very deep bench of senior management with Gary Cohn probably at the top of it,” Paul Gulberg, an analyst at Portales Partners, said in a phone interview. “It’s a very sad event for any individual or a company, but from a business perspective, I think they’re very well set to live through it.”
JPMorgan Chase & Co.’s Jamie Dimon, 59, the only other CEO of a major U.S. bank who has served since before the financial crisis, said in July 2014 that he would begin radiation and chemotherapy treatments for throat cancer. He remained active in his role, and told employees of the New York-based bank in December that he was free of the disease.
“I wish my friend Lloyd a fast and full recovery,” Dimon said. “He is blessed with a lot of love and support from family and friends, including me. My thoughts and prayers go out to him and his loved ones.”
Goldman Sachs shares declined 2.8 percent to $178.28 at 11:26 a.m. in New York, compared with the 1.7 percent drop of the 88-company Standard & Poor’s 500 Financials Index.