Gary Cohn (businessman)

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This article is about the business executive. For others, see Gary Cohn (disambiguation).
Gary D. Cohn
Gary D. Cohn President and Chief Operating Officer at Goldman Sachs.jpg
Gary D. Cohn
Born (1960-08-27) August 27, 1960 (age 53)
Nationality American
Education Gilmour Academy
Alma mater American University
Occupation President & COO at
The Goldman Sachs Group, Inc (2006-)
Salary US$ 15,803,900 (2011)
Political party
Religion Judaism[2]
Spouse(s) Lisa Pevaroff Cohn

Gary D. Cohn (born August 27, 1960[2]) is an American investment banker. He is currently the President and COO of investment banking and securities firm Goldman Sachs.

Personal life and business career[edit]

Gary Cohn, the son of Victor and Ellen Cohn,[3] grew up in Shaker Heights, Ohio. His father was an electrician who later became a real estate developer. Cohn studied at Gilmour Academy, and received his bachelor's degree from American University's Kogod School of Business.[4]

After graduating from American University, his first job was for U.S. Steel home products division in Cleveland.[5] After a few months, he left U.S. Steel and started his career as an options dealer in the New York Mercantile Exchange.[5]

Cohn was recruited by Goldman Sachs in 1990.[6] He was named head of the commodities department, part of Fixed Income, Currency and Commodities Division (FICC) of the firm, in 1996; in September 2002, he was named head of the division. He was head of the global securities businesses from December 2003, and became President and Co-Chief Operating Officer, and director, in June 2006.[7]

He and his wife, Lisa Pevaroff Cohn (who also grew up in Shaker Heights)[8] currently reside in New York City. They are the parents of three daughters.[3][5]

Personality and work style[edit]

Critics of Cohn attribute to him an arrogant, aggressive, abrasive and risk-prone work style. They see his "6-foot 3-inch & 220 lbs" as intimidating, as he might "sometimes hike up one leg, plant his foot on a trader's desk, his thigh close to the employee's face and ask how markets were doing"[6] According to former Bear Stearns Asset Management CEO Richard Marin, Cohn's arrogance is at the root of the problem.

When you become arrogant, in a trading sense, you begin to think that everybody's a counterparty, not a customer, not a client.[6]

Cohn's supporters see these qualities as advantages. Michael Ovitz, co-founder and former chairman of Creative Artists Agency and former president of The Walt Disney Company, stated that he is impressed with Cohn. Ovitz said:

He’s a trader. He has that whole feel in his body and brain and fingertips.”[6]

Ovitz sees Cohn's toughness as a "positive” value, explaining that a high ranking executive can’t be “all peaches and cream.”[4][6]

Donna Redel, who was Chairman of the Board of the New York Mercantile Exchange when Cohn worked there as a silver trader, remembers Cohn as “firm,” “strategic” and “driven.” Martin Greenberg, her predecessor, said Cohn "was tough,” and added that “Gary got in with the right people, worked his ass off and used his head.”[6]

Charitable and public activities[edit]

Cohn and his wife are founding board members of the New York University Child Study Center. The couple funded the Pevaroff Cohn Professorship in Child and Adolescent Psychiatry at the New York University School of Medicine in 1999. He has also financed the Gary D. Cohn Endowed Research Professorship in Finance at American University, his alma mater, where he graduated with a Bachelors of Science in finance.[9]

In 2009, the Hillel building at Kent State University was named the Cohn Jewish Student Center in recognition of a gift from Cohn and his wife. Cohn stated, "In making this gift, I was thinking about three things: How to celebrate the milestone birthdays of both my mother and my father who were turning 75; how I could give back to Northeast Ohio where I have my roots; and what organization would be meaningful to my family both now and in the future."[3] It is the first Hillel building built directly on the campus of a state university.[10]

Harlem Children's Zone and Promise Academy

Cohn also leads Goldman Sachs contributions to the community. In 2011 He led a $20 million gift, given to the Promise Academy Charter School and new community center, built at St. Nicholas Houses, a public housing project in harlem, New York City The gift from Goldman Sachs was made in partnership with a $60 million grant from the New York City Department of Education's Charter Facilities Matching Grant Program, and a $6 million gift from Google.[11] This gift is consistent with Cohn himself being a trustee of the Harlem Children's Zone, a nonprofit organization for poverty-stricken children and families living in Harlem.[8]

Another Goldman Sachs project led by Cohn is the 10,000 Small Businesses initiative. It is a philanthropic initiative launched by Goldman Sachs in November 2009 that pledges $500 million in various aid to small businesses. The initiative aims to provide 10,000 small businesses with assistance—ranging from business and management education and mentoring, to lending and philanthropic support. Critics have stated that the program was launched as a response to mounting criticism over Goldman Sachs' large bonus payouts after repaying (with interest) $10 billion in TARP funds it received from the U.S. Treasury.[12] According to the company, the small business initiative had been in development a year before the initial launch, and is modeled after its earlier project, the 10,000 Women Initiative, which helps educate female entrepreneurs in 18 countries.[13][14]

Cohn is active as a trustee of his alma mater, American University, and of his school, Gilmour Academy.[8]

Involvement in the European debt due proposals in 2009[edit]

Goldman Sachs has fallen under intense scrutiny for creating or pitching products used by Greece to "obscure billions in debt from the budget overseers in Brussels".[15] Cohn led a delegation from Goldman Sachs in late 2009 for meetings which included proposals – not adopted by the Greek government – to place debt-due dates far into the future, "much as when strapped homeowners take out second mortgages to pay off their credit cards".[15]


  1. ^ Reuters: Goldman Sachs - Gary Cohn brief biography retrieved August 13, 2012
  2. ^ a b c "Pastebin - Dox of Top Executives of Goldman Sachs". Retrieved 15 October 2012. 
  3. ^ a b c Hillel at Kent State Dedicates New Cohn Jewish Student Center, Hillel: The Foundation for Jewish Campus Life site.
  4. ^ a b Max Abelson and Christine Harper (July 28, 2011). "Why Gary Cohn May Not Be Goldman's Next CEO". Bloomberg. Retrieved July 16, 2012. 
  5. ^ a b c "Gary Cohn, Kogod School of Business Commencement Speaker" American University.
  6. ^ a b c d e f Max Abelson and Christine Harper (July 24, 2011). "Succeeding Blankfein at Goldman May Be Hurdle Too High for Cohn". Bloomberg L.P. Retrieved August 7, 2011. 
  7. ^ "Gary D. Cohn" Goldman Sachs.
  8. ^ a b c Gary D. Cohn at
  9. ^ [1]
  10. ^ Kent State University News: "Dedication of the New Cohn Jewish Student Center" October 12, 2009
  11. ^ News from the blue room, April 6, 2011.
  12. ^ Tozzi, John (2009-11-17). "Goldman Sachs Announces $500M in Aid to Small Business". Business Week. Retrieved November 19, 2009. 
  13. ^ Wilhelm, Ian (2009-11-17). "Goldman Sachs Pledges $500-Million to Help Small-Business Owners". Retrieved 19 November 2009. 
  14. ^ "Goldman Sachs 10,000 Small Businesses". Goldman Sachs.
  15. ^ a b Lousie Story; Landon Thomas, Jr. and Nelson D. Schwartz (February 13, 2010). "Wall St. Helped Greece to Mask Debt Fueling Europe's Crisis". The New York Times.