Tension at the top of Goldman Sachs


We seem to be in a long transition period at Goldman Sachs. CEO Lloyd Blankfein has led the bank through the financial crisis and its bloody aftermath, demonstrating his managerial chops at every turn. He is now in a position to do what so many other Goldman Sachs CEOs before him have done: give back.

But moving into public service at a suitably high level is proving to be rather difficult, as bankers, fairly or not, are still not generating a lot of warmth and fuzziness in Washington. The 2012 presidential election represented a fertile moment for a CEO change, but alas that moment has passed. As of now, it's unclear what the future holds for Blankfein. He seems to be biding his time just a bit, donning his elder statesman cap as his bank hums along.

According to media reports, the man who would be king, President Gary Cohn, is chafing as he waits. This could be really distracting internally. Charles Gasparino reports, "When Goldman Sachs President Gary Cohn recently addressed first-year analysts while his boss, chief executive Lloyd Blankfein, got stuck talking to the firm's lowly interns, the rumor mill inside the big Wall Street firm began to churn over whether this was a sign that Cohn was about to get the job he has longed coveted and run the famed investment bank."

We've heard that rumor before of course. My sense is that it will eventually come true. But Blankfein has to find a new job first.

Until then, there will be some uncomfortable situations. "While people inside Goldman say it is unlikely that Cohn will get the top job imminently, they also say Cohn has been bristling over a firm strategy to heighten Blankfein's profile in recent months, and is demanding some PR face-time of his own.

"Blankfein scored major public relations points by doing something that seemed unusual for a Wall Street executive, publicly supporting gay rights, including same sex marriage. He did so while doing some national television, and sporting a beard."

"Gary wants to be out there more," one person told the columnist. "He's jealous of Lloyd's publicity." The source can only hope that Cohn never finds out it was him.

In any case, this tango is going to go on for some time. It is fun.

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