Gary Cohn is president and chief operating officer of Goldman Sachs.
Cohn battled with dyslexia as a kid growing up in Cleveland, but it's safe to say he managed overcome his disability. Even without the shiny Ivy League credentials of some of his colleagues—he graduated American University and never attended grad school—Cohn's managed to leap to the top of the Goldman pyramid over the past two decades. Starting out as a silver trader, Cohn joined Goldman's commodities department in 1990, and made partner in 1994 while he was living in London and overseeing Goldman's metals business. That's often the point when many consider their next act, but Cohn didn't start planning his escape—he's been working like a dog ever since. In 2004, he was named one of four co-heads of Goldman's global securities business. Two years later, he was named co-COO and co-president along with Jon Winkelried after Hank Paulson left the firm to become Treasury Secretary and Lloyd Blankfein was named CEO.
Cohn has been a close personal friend of Blankfein for years—the two execs and their wives have been on vacation together—and he's now one of the potential successors to the throne. Like his boss, Cohn is a trader by background, not a relationship banker. (Previous top execs like Hank Paulson, Jon Corzine and Bob Rubin had risen up through the corporate finance department.) Nevertheless, Cohn has a reputation for dealing well with the firm's clients, which makes him the sort of well-rounded exec who can help out on multiple fronts. One of Cohn's jobs is to oversee the bi-annual rite of partner selection at the firm, making him the man with the keys to the kingdom.
Cohn earned $53.4 million in 2006. He did even better in 2007, collecting $67.5 million in cash and stock.
Cohn is a trustee of the Gilmour Academy, NYU Medical School, Harlem Children's Zone, Columbia Grammar and Prep, and American University. Cohn and his wife are founding board members of Dr. Harold Koplewicz's Child Study Center at NYU. They're also longtime Democratic donors, having contributed to Al Gore, John Kerry, Hillary Clinton, and Barack Obama.