Waddill Catchings Joins the Partnership, Later Becoming the First Non-Family Member to Lead the Firm

Theme: Leadership

After joining in 1918, Waddill Catchings quickly rises to become the firm’s first senior partner who is not part of the Goldman or Sachs families.

Waddill Catchings was born in 1879 in Sewanee, Tennessee, graduating from Harvard College in 1901 and Harvard Law School in 1904. In the financial-panic year of 1907, Waddill moved to New York to begin a career as an attorney, eventually rising to partner at Sullivan & Cromwell. There, he proved himself adept at managing companies in receivership and would serve as the head of numerous businesses, including the Platt Iron Works, the Sloss-Sheffield Steel & Iron and the Central Foundry companies. During World War I, Waddill worked in the export department of J.P. Morgan and Company purchasing war supplies for the Allies. 

Waddill was charming and charismatic, and he had a natural way with junior employees. His industrial business background brought him into close contact with Goldman Sachs, and in 1918, after Henry Goldman’s departure, Waddill was brought in to join the firm’s partnership.

Waddill’s drive and ambition made him an immediate firm leader. He advised on several significant mergers throughout the 1920s and rapidly built up his shares in Goldman Sachs, becoming the first senior partner outside of the Goldman or Sachs families in 1921. In December 1928, he created the Goldman Sachs Trading Corporation (GSTC),  a trust which pooled investors’ capital in order to invest in stock. His practices brought the firm much success throughout the 1920s, but a series of over-aggressive decisions ultimately led to his relationship with the partners deteriorating. Catchings co-wrote several books in parallel to his career, such as Money (1923), Profits (1925) and The Road to Plenty (1928).

Following the catastrophic failure of the GSTC in 1930, the firm’s partners determined that Waddill should leave Goldman Sachs. He remained active in business through the 1950s and died in 1968. 


This article was originally published as part of a series commemorating the 150th anniversary of Goldman Sachs' founding in 1869.