Ahead of the Davos summit, Goldman Sachs president Gary Cohn talks to The Sunday Telegraph about the outlook for Europe, the US economy and whether 2012 holds any rays of hope.
Although the Occupy Wall Street protesters have been corralled and “moved on” several times by the New York Police Department, Goldman Sachs is not keen to advertise itself. Photo: Getty Images
By Kamal Ahmed,
Sunday Telegraph Business Editor
6:13PM GMT 13 Jan 2012
For the headquarters of one of the biggest banks in the world, the outside of 200 West Street is deliberately anonymous. Outside, guards patrol in the freezing air and the pavement bollards, masquerading as decorative street furniture, are the type of urban landscaping designed to prevent a terrorist attack. If any reminder were needed, from the upper floors there are views of the reflecting pools that mark Ground Zero.
Although the Occupy Wall Street protesters have been corralled and “moved on” several times by the New York Police Department, Goldman Sachs is not keen to advertise itself. “It’s not as if we’ve got to signal to people where the ATM machines are,” says one senior figure as he accompanies me to the lifts.
Gary Cohn, the president and chief operating Officer of Goldman, is on floor 41, the executive floor. His office, relatively modest for a man who can pick up the phone to almost any CEO in the world, is a couple of doors along from Lloyd Blankfein, the chairman and chief executive.
The two men are close and on the company’s website they are positioned as number one and two on the list of executive officers (and it’s not alphabetical). When Blankfein emailed colleagues about the “big short” – when Goldman bet at least some of its financial muscle that the American housing market would fall in 2007 – Cohn was on the “cc” list.
Cohn comes from Shaker Heights, Ohio. His accent and demeanour (he is 6ft 3in tall and weighs 13 stone) is straight from the Central Casting folder titled “Wall Street titan, firm handshake”. He has been called “abrasive” and “risk-taking”, and some have questioned whether he will ever succeed Blankfein to the top job. His ability to run a business and provide Goldman clients with the type of service only many zeros on a cheque can buy is legendary.
At the end of the month, Cohn will be Goldman’s leading representative at the World Economic Forum at Davos – the Alpine business and political gathering that brings together the global-elite class. Also there will be European leaders, members of the World Bank, the International Monetary Fund, financial regulators, Middle Eastern and Asian rainmakers and fund holders. Cohn will be in back-to-back meetings, seeing clients and attending sessions with titles such as “Big Banks: Curse or Cure for the Global Economy?” Last year, his comments on the dangers of ill thought-out financial regulation became one of the major themes of the week-long event.
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- Don McNay: Is Being Anti Goldman Sachs Being Anti American? (huffingtonpost.com)