John Weinberg and John Whitehead Become Co-Heads

Theme: Leadership

John Weinberg and John Whitehead are named co-heads of Goldman Sachs in 1976, presiding over some of the firm’s most significant initiatives and growth during their joint tenure of nearly eight years.

As young associates at Goldman Sachs in the early 1950s, John L. Weinberg and John C. Whitehead ate lunch daily at Scotty’s, a local sandwich shop, exchanging ideas about the firm and their vision for its future growth. Decades later in 1976, those conversations took on greater significance when the two men were named senior partners and co-chairmen of the firm’s Management Committee

There were many parallels between the two leaders. Both had served during World War II: Weinberg as a second lieutenant with the US Marine Corps while Whitehead served in the US Navy piloting a landing craft to Omaha Beach on D-Day and in the Pacific theater of the war. Weinberg would also take leave from the firm to serve as a captain during the Korean War.

John Weinberg was born in New York City in 1925, the son of senior partner Sidney Weinberg  while Whitehead was born in Evanston, Illinois, just north of Chicago, in 1922. They both joined the firm after earning their MBAs from Harvard Business School (Whitehead in 1947, Weinberg in 1950) and rose through the firm’s Investment Banking division. Both were named partners in 1956. That same year, Whitehead authored a memorandum that would lead to fundamental change in investment banking services within Goldman Sachs and eventually throughout the industry.

When the two were named co-senior partners in 1976 following the death of Gus Levy, many predicted such a leadership structure would fail. But Weinberg and Whitehead proved to be a formidable combination in their leadership and the firm flourished with their shared management structure.

Whitehead’s strategic, organizationally-oriented view complemented Weinberg’s more client-focused, culture-carrying role. Often referred to as the “two Johns,” they embodied the firm’s culture of teamwork and cooperation, jointly leading Goldman Sachs for nearly eight years.

Their accomplishments and impact on the firm – individually and jointly – were immense. During their joint tenure, the firm’s assets, geographic footprint and product offerings grew exponentially. In 1979, John Whitehead would codify the firm’s Business Principles, which continue to guide the culture of the firm. Together the “two Johns” oversaw the purchase of J. Aron & Company in 1981, which further strengthened the firm in commodities trading. Goldman Sachs expanded in Hong Kong in 1983, increasing its reach in Asia Pacific.

John Whitehead retired in 1984 and was named US Deputy Secretary of State the following year. John Weinberg served as sole senior partner of the firm for six years following Whitehead’s departure. 

In the aftermath of the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, John Whitehead became founding chairman of the World Trade Center Memorial Foundation and served from 2002 to 2006 as chairman of the Lower Manhattan Development Corporation, the state-city corporation in charge of rebuilding the World Trade Center and revitalizing downtown Manhattan. He was also the founding chairman of the Goldman Sachs Foundation (created in 1999 after the firm's IPO) ), a role he held until his death in 2015 at the age of 92. After retiring in 1990, John Weinberg maintained an active association with the firm first as senior chairman and then as a director until his death in 2006 at the age of 81.


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