Goldman braced for exodus of partners

TOP MANAGEMENT at Goldman Sachs are bracing themselves for a larger number than usual of its elite group of partners to leave this year following the Wall Street investment bank's flotation in May.

Senior officers have told Wall Street analysts that the securities house is prepared for "a higher than normal" 40 to 45 departures over two years. The normal attrition rate over that period is 30 to 35.

The highest profile recent departure is Jon Corzine, the former senior partner who is quitting to run for the Senate. He was followed by Mark Evans, head of global investment research.

Mr Evans, who was tipped by insiders for a very senior management role, announced last week that he is to leave in November to "pursue entrepreneurial activities in Northern California". However, there had been a rush of announcements at the end of last year of veterans opting to retire.

Analyst Judah Kraushaar at Merrill Lynch said in a report following a recent meeting with top Goldman officials, including David Viniar, the chief financial officer: "Goldman could see moderate employee turnover this year."

He added: "The offset has been that Goldman found it easier to attract new lateral hires now that it can offer stock in compensation packages."

Opponents of the plan to take the business public had argued that flotation would destroy the concept of partnership that lay at the heart of the Wall Street firm's success. The prospect of being one of the elect was traditionally a key motivator for middle-ranking staff.

Before the partnership was dissolved Goldman had 221 partners. Following the public offering that effectively doubled the size of the senior management pool, the firm now has 540 managing directors.

Senior Goldman bankers argue that while they would like to keep the ethos intact, the fact that they can offer stock means the firm is in a better position to attract talented individuals from other investment banks.

They point out that in recent weeks Goldman has succeeded in poaching James Golob, the top-ranking telecoms analyst from Deutsche, and Terry Fitzgerald from Schroders to be head of equity capital markets in New York. However, one said: "We do not know what is going to happen at year end."

Under lock-in rules, partners who have stock worth more than $50m each cannot sell for five years, but there is nothing to stop them borrowing against their holdings.

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