February 23, 2024

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Top Goldman Sachs executive Jim Esposito to depart

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Goldman Sachs’ Jim Esposito, one of chief executive David Solomon’s top lieutenants, is leaving the Wall Street firm in a surprise departure. 

Solomon told staff in a memo on Monday that 56-year-old Esposito, known to colleagues as “Espo”, was leaving the bank after almost three decades. He was most recently a co-head of Goldman’s flagship investment banking and trading business. 

“On a personal note, I am grateful for Jim’s counsel, friendship and sense of humour during our many years of collaboration,” wrote Solomon in the memo seen by the Financial Times. 

Esposito was viewed internally as one of multiple candidates in the running to take over from Solomon, who has led the bank since late 2018, although bank president John Waldron is considered the leading contender. 

Solomon’s leadership style was the subject of internal criticism last year and there was speculation over how long he could keep his position at the bank.

However, the FT reported in August that Solomon retained the backing of Goldman’s board of directors and his position has solidified further in recent months, offering less of an imminent pathway for career advancement for someone like Esposito. Solomon, 62, also stands to earn a special stock award if he remains at the bank until 2026. 

In a separate note to clients announcing his departure, Esposito wrote that he had recently had “a feeling of merely going through the motions which isn’t in my DNA nor what makes this place special”.

“No formal plans for what comes next, which feels like the ultimate luxury after going full out for decades. Standing at a crossroads, sometimes you have to pause to acknowledge the chapters you’ve written,” Esposito wrote in the note, which was seen by the FT.

Esposito was made one of three co-heads of Goldman’s investment banking and trading division, alongside Ashok Varadhan and Dan Dees, after the two businesses were merged in 2022. The unit, which will now be run by Varadhan and Dees, generated about two-thirds of Goldman’s revenues last year. 

Esposito joined Goldman in 1995 as a salesperson in its emerging markets debt business and was made a partner in 2006. He had previously been co-head of Goldman’s investment banking and trading divisions when they were standalone businesses.

“Espo was an individual that led the firm through some difficult times. He was a positive influence, a mentor to many, a top-notch professional and his leadership will be missed,” Ricardo Mora, former Goldman partner who retired from the firm last year, told the FT.

Esposito has been one of Solomon’s most powerful deputies and played a significant role in combining the investment banking and trading businesses.

But he was also one of a number of people inside Goldman who was sceptical about the firm’s retail banking ambitions, according to two people familiar with the matter. Solomon ultimately pared back the consumer banking business.

In the memo to employees, Solomon said that Esposito had “decided to retire from Goldman Sachs” but would become a senior director.

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