John L. Thornton

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John Lawson Thornton
Born 1954 (age 61–62)[1]
Nationality American
Alma mater Harvard College (B.A.)
Oxford University (B.J., M.J.)
Yale University (M.A.)

John Lawson Thornton (born January 2, 1954) is a Professor and Director of Global Leadership at Tsinghua University in Beijing. He is former President of Goldman Sachs.[2]

Early life and Education[edit]

Thornton is the son of John V. Thornton, a former vice chairman of the Consolidated Edison Company, and Edna Lawson Thornton, a lawyer.[3][4] He attended the Hotchkiss School, where he became friends with William Clay Ford, later Chief Executive of the Ford Motor Company and on whose board he would later serve[5][6] Thornton would later serve as the President of the Board of Trustees of Hotchkiss.

Thornton earned a bachelor's degree from Harvard University. He received a bachelor's and master's degrees in Jurisprudence and later in 1980, an M.A. in Public and Private Management from Yale.


Thornton joined Goldman Sachs in 1980 and became a Partner at age 34.[7] In 1983, Thornton founded and developed Goldman Sachs' European mergers and acquisitions business. He first began work in London in 1985, and served as co-CEO of Goldman Sachs International in London from 1995 to 1996. Thornton was Chairman of Goldman Sachs Asia from 1996 to 1998, where he expanded the firm's regional franchise during the Asian financial crisis. He announced his retirement from Goldman Sachs in 2003 and transferred to his current position in China, although he would remain an adviser on issues related to China. According to the New York Times, Thornton's decision to retire "was prompted by a recognition that Mr. Paulson, who is 56, plans to remain Goldman's leader for at least three to five more years, delaying Mr. Thornton's expected promotion."[7] At his retirement, he held $207 million in Goldman stock and his compensation over the previous four years totaled $40 million.[7]

In 2003, Thornton came under controversy for his position on the Directorship of the Ford Motor Company, forcing Thornton to resign from the company's Audit company and the Chief Executive of Ford, Clay Ford Jr. to sell shares he had acquired in Goldman Sachs.[7]

In 2015, Thornton was embroiled in a controversy over his compensation at Barrick Gold, after 75% of the company’s shareholders voted against Barrick’s compensation practices. Although the vote was non-binding, according to the Globe and Mail, Thornton acknowledged shareholder concerns at the company’s 2015 annual general meeting and vowed to make changes to the company’s compensation practices.[8]

Thornton has served on the boards of many large public companies including China Unicom, HSBC, Industrial and Commercial Bank of China, Intel and News Corporation. He is currently Chairman of Barrick Gold Corporation, a member of the board of Ford Motor Company and also serves as non-executive Chairman of PineBridge Investments.[9][10][11]

He is also Chairman of the Board of trustees of the Brookings Institution.

Interest in China[edit]

Thornton's interest in China stretches to the 1980s, where he helped build Goldman's presence in Asia. At the time of his retirement, Goldman had become the lead underwriter for major Chinese state-owned companies.[7]

In 2006, Thornton funded the establishment of the John L. Thornton China Center at the Brookings Institution.[12] In 2009, he also became a member of the International Advisory Council of the Chinese sovereign wealth fund China Investment Corporation.[13]

He supported the launch of the Schwarzman Scholarship in 2013, attending its launch at Tsinghua University,[14] and serving as an honorary board member.[15]

Personal life[edit]

Thornton is married to Margaret Bradham Thornton. They have four children.[16]


External links[edit]