Last week, The New York Times published a fun little story about the adorable cagematch of death that is the CEO succession plan at Goldman Sachs.
Sure, the narrative of Harvey Schwartz and David (DJ D-SOL) Solomon competing for the crown while also executing the duties of Co-COOs in the large shadow cast by the death of Gary Cohn's career is somewhat old news, but The Times' Kate Kelly weaves quite a yarn. And also Dick Bove is calling for Lloyd Blankfein's head again, so this whole thing takes on the Bove-mandated bare minimum of intrigue.
But let's get into the good stuff here. First off, let Kelly cast this drama for you:
In the early 1980s, Harvey M. Schwartz was working weekends in the cold room of a kosher butcher shop in New Jersey, shaping beef into hamburger patties.
Two hundred miles away in upstate New York, David M. Solomon was a frat brother playing rugby and mulling an entry-level banking position.
More than three decades later, the two men are competing for what may be the most coveted job on Wall Street: running Goldman Sachs.
Oh, this is good. Blue collar butcher boy Harvey covered in literal blood and guts to make a dime while popped-collar-polo-shirt-wearing Solomon plays quarters with his NESCACian bros at Hamilton College. We can almost feel the future war to come, and we immediately know the hero from the villain.
But then, like any great creation myth, there is a flip in the script:
Mr. Solomon, when he isn’t jetting around the world or locked in all-day client meetings, likes to spin electronic-dance records at nightclubs and do yoga with his adult daughter.
Oh, right, David Solomon is fun and quirky. He's like your uncle that thinks he's cool but actually, like, is. If he ran Goldman, we might start hearing about morning raves at 200 West Street. He might let us know about how his ayahuasca experience affected investment banking in the third quarter. And we would surely start hearing rumors about how gassy Bill George was on the mandatory board of directors yoga retreat to Tulum.
And what would Harvey bring to the table?
Mr. Schwartz, a black belt in karate, spends many Sunday afternoons in the office. Over five hours of interviews for this article, the most revealing moment about his business psychology came when he described how he interviews job candidates: He asks them to try to sell him the Polycom speakerphone that sits on his desk.
We'd do a joke here but we fell asleep shortly after the karate thing. And that wasn't even the worst factoid about Harvey in this story:
Mr. Schwartz is cautious and can be tightly scripted. As a general rule, he waits 48 hours to collect his thoughts before addressing someone who has really annoyed him.
We at Dealbreaker have a name for this kind of behavior from a Goldman Sachs CEO: "Bad for business."
And while this whole thing lends itself easily to the underdog Harvey (difficult childhood, barely got into Rutgers, worked his way up, etc.) versus the smooth, careerist Solomon (dressed his team in Lululemon to win the IPO, defected from Bear Stearns to join the cooler kids at Goldman, is fun, etc.), let's take a moment to step back and remember that these guys are gunning for the CEO gig at Goldman Sachs.
This is not a job for an underdog.
Gary Cohn learned that the hard way and guys like David Solomon are "to the manor born" at 200 West Street. DJ D-SOL is the kind of guy that Goldman and Dealbreaker need at the helm of Global Finance's Death Star. Harvey Schwartz seems like a real mensch, but David Solomon is the power bald that makes sense for Goldman Sachs.
However...one thing gives us pause in laying down a big bet that Solomon wins this battle too easily:
The six-foot, four-inch Mr. Schwartz held an assortment of odd jobs in college. He was a nightclub bouncer. He ran a quick-service landscaping outfit. He worked at the butcher shop. He learned to expertly sharpen knives.
“If I come over to your house at Thanksgiving and I sharpen your knife, you will definitively know the difference right away,” he joked during an interview in his 41st-floor office.
Read it again.
Harvey Schwartz is like a martial arts-trained Gary Cohn who has knife skills and can pretend to be nice. This thing might be tighter than we want to imagine.
But hey, even if this ends with Harvey Schwartz clutching a bloody knife and standing over David Solomon's lifeless body in a smashed up conference room as the sound of Lloyd's maniacal laugh competes with phat blaring EDM beats, this whole thing was just big waste of time.
Everyone knows that the next CEO of Goldman Sachs is Marty Chavez.