The Testament of Solomon

Goldman Sachs C.E.O. David Solomon.
Goldman Sachs C.E.O. David Solomon. Photo: Jed Jacobsohn/Getty Images
William D. Cohan
June 14, 2023

Nearly five years ago, when I interviewed David Solomon for a profile in Vanity Fair, soon after he succeeded Lloyd Blankfein as the new C.E.O. of Goldman Sachs, he was full of humility and expectation. Goldman was about to celebrate its 150th year in business as one of the leading investment banks in the world, and Solomon could not help but be awed by the opportunity and the responsibility he had just inherited. “You look at the history of any company, Goldman Sachs included, and it’s not a straight line,” he told me back then. “Wall Street happens to be a place with a long history of volatility. Like any organization, we have to continue to evolve if we want to be around for another 150 years. You’ve got to have a good strategy, and good people, and a good culture—and probably a little bit of luck.”

Some around Goldman, though, are beginning to wonder if the path has gotten a bit more crooked, and whether Solomon’s luck is running out. Despite a stock price that has outperformed even industry titan JPMorgan Chase during the past five years, the last 18 months have been tough. Goldman had a record-setting 2021, when the bank made more money than ever before, some $21.1 billion. But if that were the party—and it was a big one—Goldman, and Solomon with it, are now suffering from the hangover. In 2022, Goldman made half of what it did the year before. Bonuses, the life blood of Wall Street, were also way down, the result of a smaller pool of money to distribute and more mouths to feed. Headcount at Goldman during the Solomon years has risen some 40 percent, to nearly 50,000 people, before some 4,000 jobs were cut this year.