Goldman Sachs Group's chairman and CEO Lloyd Blankfein has been diagnosed with a curable form of lymphoma and has told employees and shareholders he would continue to work normally during treatment. The news immediately put the company's succession plans in the spotlight, as its shares fell 1.98% to $179.72 a share on the NYSE.
Chief operating officer Gary Cohn and senior bank officials will undertake some of Blankfein's responsibilities in dealing with the public. This was witnessed when Cohn replaced Blankfein at the last minute at a public discussion in New York.
Apart from Cohn, who is seen as the most likely successor, other senior executives who could provide stability according to investors, include chief financial officer Harvey Schwartz, chief strategy officer Stephen Scherr, vice chairman Michael Sherwood and investment banking co-head David Solomon.
Lymphoma is a cancer that begins in infection-fighting cells of the immune system called lymphocytes present in the lymph nodes, spleen, thymus, bone marrow, and other parts of the body. However it is very treatable as per WebMD.
Mike Donnelly, senior VP and portfolio manager at CS McKee that manages $10.5bn in assets and owns Goldman shares, said "Obviously, Blankfein has done a great job and embodies the culture, but in terms of this changing the investment thesis given the valuation, no, absolutely not."
Another Goldman shareholder Chris Niemczewski, who is also the managing principal at Marshfield Associates that manages $2bn in assets said, "You don't want day-to-day health bulletins, but you do want to know if the prognosis changes. You want to know if it stops being a risk." Blankfein has led Goldman since 2006 and has never spoken about his retirement or plans after Goldman.
Examples of other CEOs who had cancer include JPMorgan Chase & Co CEO Jamie Dimon who was diagnosed with throat cancer more than a year ago, Andy Grove, who held various positions at Intel including CEO and chairman, had prostate cancer, Robert Benmosche AIG's CEO was treated for lung cancer, Apple's CEO Steve Jobs for pancreatic cancer and Berkshire Hathaway's CEO Warren Buffett fought prostate cancer. All these executives, however, continued to work during their respective treatment periods.