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:

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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:

gschart2.tiff

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.

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