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Opinion

Goldman gets down to brass tacks

Spotted in India: Goldman Sachs’s chairman and CEO, Lloyd Blankfein, enjoying the festivities at a party in New Delhi hosted by Azim Premji, the silver-haired chief of one of the subcontinent’s biggest IT firms, Wipro.

The hyperactive Blankfein kept hopping back and forth, trying to get his BlackBerry to work, finally deciding to slip away from the party after realizing that no one particularly interesting was going to arrive.

Another of Goldman’s board of directors, when asked about the recent departure of Stan O’Neal, said it was a sad day for his industry. Why, he pondered aloud, had Merrill Lynch parted with its much-respected chief executive while Chuck Prince, whose tenure as chairman and CEO of Citi saw the bank’s shares fall 36% in the year to November 4, continued to clog up the system at the largest US banking group – even after writing off $11 billion in sub-prime-related investments.

"It doesn’t make sense," he opined, "especially when you look at what O’Neal did for Merrill and Prince has done for Citi" – that is, flush its stock value down the toilet.

The next day he received his answer when Prince stepped down: Citi wasn’t putting up with his loss-making any more.

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