Close this search box.
Close this search box.

John C. Whitehead, Former CEO of Goldman Sachs, Dead at 92

John C. Whitehead, for decades one of New York’s most prominent citizens, a veteran of D-Day who capped a lauded career on Wall Street and in the State Department by shepherding the first years of the city’s fractious effort to rebuild after the 2001 terrorist attacks, died on Saturday at his home in New York. He was 92.

Haverford College, from which he had graduated and where he served on the board of managers, announced his death, saying the cause was cancer.

“He was a towering figure in both business and finance,” said J.P. Donlon, editor in chief of Chief Executive magazine. “They don’t make folks like him anymore—people who not only lead their company, but lead their industry as well. He will be missed.”

“He was not just active in 20 of our CEO Summits – when he spoke, people listened,” said Jeffrey A. Sonnenfeld, Senior Associate Dean for Leadership Studies and Lester Crown Professor of Leadership Practice at the Yale School of Management. Sonnenfeld was the first John Whitehead Faculty Fellow at the Harvard Business School, “and I have felt a special bond with him for almost four decades.”

At each program, Sonnenfeld continued, “John was a font of wisdom, a pillar of integrity, and a champion of government budget reform.  As a pioneering financier, he launched early IPO and M&A initiatives as well as fortified key client oriented cultural values among his partners. John was a bold patriot, having fought – incredibly on the beaches of Normandy and Iwo Jima – the two most iconic battles of both theaters of war in WWII but never bragged about his service.  He also showed his courage, jumping in to Hank Greenberg’s defense when under attack at AIG – staring down reported threats from Attorney General Eliot Spitzer.  He was a rare demonstration of impeccable leadership character; loyal patriotism,  and selfless friendship.”

The columnist Liz Smith once called Mr. Whitehead the “chairman of the establishment.” He helped pilot Goldman Sachs to the forefront of investment banking and led the boards of Harvard, the Asia Society and the Federal Reserve Bank of New York, among other institutions. As deputy secretary of state in the Reagan administration, he helped wean the countries of Eastern Europe from the Soviet Union.

His connections were so broad, he said, that in 10 minutes of conversation with “just about anyone,” he could find “a mutual friend we both know well.”

Read more: The New York Times


  • Get the CEO Briefing

    Sign up today to get weekly access to the latest issues affecting CEOs in every industry
  • upcoming events


    Strategic Planning Workshop

    1:00 - 5:00 pm

    Over 70% of Executives Surveyed Agree: Many Strategic Planning Efforts Lack Systematic Approach Tips for Enhancing Your Strategic Planning Process

    Executives expressed frustration with their current strategic planning process. Issues include:

    1. Lack of systematic approach (70%)
    2. Laundry lists without prioritization (68%)
    3. Decisions based on personalities rather than facts and information (65%)


    Steve Rutan and Denise Harrison have put together an afternoon workshop that will provide the tools you need to address these concerns.  They have worked with hundreds of executives to develop a systematic approach that will enable your team to make better decisions during strategic planning.  Steve and Denise will walk you through exercises for prioritizing your lists and steps that will reset and reinvigorate your process.  This will be a hands-on workshop that will enable you to think about your business as you use the tools that are being presented.  If you are ready for a Strategic Planning tune-up, select this workshop in your registration form.  The additional fee of $695 will be added to your total.

    To sign up, select this option in your registration form. Additional fee of $695 will be added to your total.

    New York, NY: ​​​Chief Executive's Corporate Citizenship Awards 2017

    Women in Leadership Seminar and Peer Discussion

    2:00 - 5:00 pm

    Female leaders face the same issues all leaders do, but they often face additional challenges too. In this peer session, we will facilitate a discussion of best practices and how to overcome common barriers to help women leaders be more effective within and outside their organizations. 

    Limited space available.

    To sign up, select this option in your registration form. Additional fee of $495 will be added to your total.

    Golf Outing

    10:30 - 5:00 pm
    General’s Retreat at Hermitage Golf Course
    Sponsored by UBS

    General’s Retreat, built in 1986 with architect Gary Roger Baird, has been voted the “Best Golf Course in Nashville” and is a “must play” when visiting the Nashville, Tennessee area. With the beautiful setting along the Cumberland River, golfers of all capabilities will thoroughly enjoy the golf, scenery and hospitality.

    The golf outing fee includes transportation to and from the hotel, greens/cart fees, use of practice facilities, and boxed lunch. The bus will leave the hotel at 10:30 am for a noon shotgun start and return to the hotel after the cocktail reception following the completion of the round.

    To sign up, select this option in your registration form. Additional fee of $295 will be added to your total.