Goldman's Blankfein prepares exit for as soon as year-end: WSJ

Lloyd Fonzie Blankfein

Goldman Sachs' chief executive is preparing an exit by the end of the year, according to The Wall Street Journal.

Lloyd Blankfein, Goldman Sachs' chairman and chief executive, is preparing an exit by the end of the year after a 12-year tenure atop the Wall Street powerhouse, according to a report.

Goldman shares took an immediate hit following the late Friday morning report from The Wall Street Journal but then stabilized and was up 1.5 percent by early afternoon.

No formal timeline has been set for Blankfein's exit and it's possible he could remain at the bank into next year and beyond, sources familiar with the situation told CNBC. A Goldman spokesman didn't return a call from CNBC for comment.

Blankfein became CEO in 2006 and until Friday had indicated he was in no hurry to leave. In late 2016, the bank named two co-presidents, Harvey Schwartz and David Solomon. Both executives are in their mid-50s and are the likeliest candidates to succeed Blankfein, at least from within the bank, according to the Journal.

Schwartz and Solomon were named to succeed Gary Cohn , Blankfein's long-serving lieutenant who left to become the top economic advisor to President Donald Trump last year. Cohn announced on Tuesday he was leaving the White House.

Solomon is a long-time investment banker and advisor to some of the firm's most important clients, while Schwartz spent time as Goldman's chief financial officer and once ran the firm's trading operations.

Goldman marks its 150th anniversary as a firm in 2019, a milestone that has been seen as a natural point for a change at the top. Blankfein's tenure has been longer than many CEOs.

"Lloyd's been there a while compared to most of his recent predecessors," said Christopher Whalen, the head of Whalen Global Advisors, an investment bank advisory. "Goldman has typically liked to keep things moving. I think it would be a good change for the firm."

The exact timing on the departure by Blankfein, 63, could change, according to the WSJ report.

In 2015, he was diagnosed with cancer. In his first interview after months of chemotherapy for lymphoma, he told CNBC in February 2016 that was was feeling "pretty good."

"From the moment I got the diagnosis, I went about it and dealt with it. I was able to handle the meds pretty well," he said at the time.

— CNBC's Jeff Cox and Andrew Ross Sorkin contributed to this report.

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