Goldman Sachs votes to float

PARTNERS AT Goldman Sachs, one of the oldest and most successful investment banking partnerships on Wall Street, yesterday voted overwhelmingly to go public.

The 190 partners gave the go-ahead to the $25bn (pounds 15bn) autumn float, which will result in multi-million pound payouts for all Goldman partners.

The partners discussed details of Goldman's initial public offering (IPO) in a video-conference link yesterday before voting on the flotation proposals.

The vote was described by Goldman insiders as simply "a rubber-stamping exercise". Flotation of the firm has been described as "almost inevitable" after Goldman's six-strong executive committee endorsed plans to sell 10-15 per cent of the bank back in June.

Since then, a team of in-house experts has been hammering out details of the flotation, which were explained to the partners yesterday.

The partners are believed to have discussed the size of their windfalls, the terms under which they will be able to cash in their shares and the distribution of equity to other Goldman's employees.

The firm is unlikely to disclose details of the plans until it files with the US Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) later this month. However, partners are expected to receive an average payout of $80m, with the more senior partners receiving windfalls of more than $100m.

Partners are unlikely to be able to cash in their shares straight away - possibly for as long as five years - and all 11,000 of the bank's employees will receive some type of equity stake.

Goldman's 200 managing directors - the so-called "marzipan layer" who occupy the rung below partnership - are expected to be awarded multi-million pound payouts in an attempt to compensate them for losing the chance to attain coveted partnership status.

City sources have estimated the "marzipan layer" payouts at $10m-$15m.

So-called "limited" partners who have retired from the bank have already been told details of their payouts. They are expected to be awarded premiums of 25-55 per cent over their investment in the firm, depending on the precise combination of shares, debt and cash they choose.