Bankers set to take the millions

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The Independent Online
TODAY the staff at the world's most profitable investment bank will learn if they are about to become rich beyond most people's wildest dreams.

In a style and at an hour that New York considers normal, Hank Paulson and Jon Corzine, the co-chairmen of Goldman Sachs, will announce how the company's senior partners have voted in a secret ballot on whether to float their company and pay themselves between pounds 20m and pounds 100m each. Mr Corzine's more generous share of the spoils, however, will be in the region of pounds 1bn.

The announcement will be broadcast on video screens around the company at 7.30am New York time.

It could be a scene straight out of Bonfire of the Vanities, Tom Wolfe's novel of yuppie greed and frenetic lifestyles. Wolfe, no doubt, could have made a hilarious chapter out of the debate that the 190 partners of the Wall Street investment bankers conducted at a two-day meeting over the weekend: agonising over whether to bite the bullet and take the cash.

Wolfe called his workaholic millionaires of the money market the "masters of the universe". The masters of the universe at Goldman Sachs live the part to a degree. One week's annual leave is the norm for a graduate trainee, as is global travel at an hour's notice; offices are understaffed so that people work harder and the bonuses are bigger; relationships are fraught - it is a Goldman Sachs joke that employees learn how to conceive children by fax, the only form of communication many of them have with their wives.

But these masters of the universe also depart from the stereotype in striking ways. For a start some of the soon to be stinking rich partners of this Wall Street investment bankers are British.

Most notably, Gavyn Davies, the company's chief economist, whose wife, Sue Nye, runs Gordon Brown's private office.Asked by The Independent (for which he writes a column) whether the partners were going to get the money, he said: "We are under strict instructions not to speak to anyone."

Therese Miller belongs to what Goldman Sachs calls "the marzipan layer" - the 210 managing directors below partner level but likely to share in the payout. Born in Detroit, she is now a naturalised Brit, earning even more than her husband, the former Sunday Times journalist Jonathan Miller.

Simon Robertson, set to make pounds 60m, is the former chairman of Dresdner Kleinwort Benson. The old Etonian joined Goldmans last year - some 30 years after he spent a nine-month secondment at the bank as a young financier.

Peter Sutherland, chairman of Goldman Sachs International, can expect shares of up to pounds 60m if there is a flotation.

Though cynics might not credit it, there were arguments against taking the money during the meeting, at a conference centre in New York State. Those partners who opposed the plan to float suspected that Goldman Sachs' culture of staff loyalty, dedication and adherence to pure business principles would be compromised.

Goldman Sachs's equity is currently shared between 190 partners, 150 limited partners (mostly retired partners), and a number of institutions. There are also 210 managing directors who are not partners but who are now very much in the mind of Jon Corzine. Aside from arguing that Goldman has a better chance of competitive success on the stock market, he is also said to believe that flotation payouts should be used to spread wealth more widely through the company.

Not everyone is impressed by the plan. Gerry Holtham, director of the Institute for Public Policy Research and a former investment banker, said: "It looks like just a way to create a payout for the partners."