Felix Salmon

When Winkelried left Goldman

By Felix Salmon
January 28, 2010

Bill Cohan gets an interview with Jon Winkelried, who left Goldman Sachs abruptly in February 2009 from his position as one of two possible successors to Lloyd Blankfein:

Blankfein urged Winkelried not to resign when Winkelried brought up leaving at his annual review in December. Over the holidays, at their ranch in Colorado, Winkelried and his wife reached the decision that as soon as he “was comfortable” that the firm was “on sound footing in terms of the future,” he would retire. That moment came on Feb. 12, 2009. “What was clear to me was that Goldman was probably going to be net-net a beneficiary of what happened,” he says.

Winkelried went to talk to Blankfein one final time and told him he intended to leave at the end of the first quarter. Blankfein was not pleased.

How believable is Winkelried when he says that Goldman was on a sound footing in February 2009? Well, here’s the chart:


Goldman stock was over $200 a share going into 2008, but ended the year at barely over $80. In mid-February it was still very much in its post-crash trough: on February 12, the date that Winkelried made his decision, it was about $95. Today, even in the wake of Obama’s new war on investment banks and prop trading, it’s still over $150.

My sympathies, then, are with Blankfein on this one. Winkelreid got paid $53.4 million in 2006, and $67.5 million in 2007. That should have bought a bit more loyalty than this: instead, Winks upped and left when Goldman’s continued existence was more in question than it had been in decades. Sure, his chances of becoming CEO one day might have been diminishing. But he didn’t show a lot of loyalty to the firm.

6 comments so far | RSS Comments RSS

I’m sure he had a further horizon to look past than just the stock price on that day, though. He probably had pretty intimate knowledge of everything we now know – that profits were back, that their trading operations were going gangbusters, and that they’d come out ahead. Time has proven him correct. And he stayed long enough to make sure the company was safe. Where’s the disloyalty?

Posted by RIckWebb | Report as abusive

He may not have shown a lot of loyalty to the firm, but do you really think the firm would show a lot of loyalty to him? In the end, I doubt it. Not in this day and age. So I am not sure why loyalty is even mentioned here.

Posted by scott1959 | Report as abusive

“Loyalty to the firm”? What utter nonsense! A corporation is not a person; it has no feelings or other psychic attributes. It is not the sort of entity that is properly either the subject or the object of loyalty.

“Winkelried got paid $53.4 million in 2006, and $67.5 million in 2007. That should have bought a bit more loyalty than this . . . .” What that bought was two years’ worth of work. Winkelried delivered his side of the bargain; he owed nothing more.

Posted by Philon | Report as abusive

If you want loyalty, have your assistant lease a dog.

Posted by msobel | Report as abusive

I bet they were relieved to get rid of him at that salary. Quite a bit more to go around.

Posted by Gaw | Report as abusive

It’s cute that you bought the cover story.

Winkelreid blew himself up and was forced out.

Posted by johnhhaskell | Report as abusive

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