The rise of Gary Cohn, from Midwestern kid to Goldman Sachs boss — who is now leaving the Trump administration

Gary Cohn.

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Gary Cohn.
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REUTERS/Lucas Jackson

Gary Cohn, the former chief operating officer and president of Goldman Sachs, is resigning from his role as director of the National Economic Council in the Trump administration.

Cohn’s move on Tuesday followed what had been months of internal chaos in the White House.

His addition to the Trump administration was the latest stage in a rather incredible journey. As a kid who grew up in a middle-class family in Ohio, no one would’ve expected Cohn to reach the heights he has in his professional career.

As Cohn now prepares to end his time in the Trump administration, here are some of the most interesting snippets from his rise to the top.


Cohn’s grandfather was a Polish immigrant who moved to the US on his own as a 13-year-old with $8 in his pocket. He worked three jobs, was an apprentice electrician, and ended up opening his own business. Cohn would later work there.

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Public Record Office of Northern Ireland/Flickr

Source: Goldman Sachs


Cohn grew up in Cleveland in the 1960s in a middle-class family. He ‘bounced around from school to school because really no one understood how to deal with a dyslexic kid,’ he told colleague Jake Siewart in a podcast.

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The Westinghouse Building on US Route 20 in Cleveland, near Edgewater Park, 1969.
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Wikimedia Commons

Source: Goldman Sachs


A teacher told Cohn’s parents that ‘if they were really lucky and spent a lot of time’ with Cohn, he might ‘grow up to be a truck driver.’

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REUTERS/Jim Young

Source: Business Insider


He ended up at Gilmour Academy, a Catholic school, where two brothers took an interest in his education. “I think they took an interest because I might have been the hardest-working kid in the class with the least amount of results,” Cohn has said.

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Gilmour Academy

Source: Goldman Sachs


He worked hard to get into college at American University, where he learned about time management. ‘You go to class less than 12 hours a week,’ he said. ‘If you can’t figure out how to manage the rest of your time and get your work done, you should be questioning yourself.’

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American University

Source: Goldman Sachs


‘On the day he finally did graduate,’ after an enormous amount of effort on writing, reading and rereading, ‘his mother was a fountain of tears.’

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Georgia Tech/Facebook

Source: “David and Goliath


Cohn did not have a job or interviews lined up after graduation. What he did possess was a passion for financial markets.

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Baron Visuals/Flickr

Source: Kogod Business School


Cohn took up a job with a division of United States Steel in Akron, Ohio, selling aluminum siding and window frames to please his father.

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REUTERS/Stringer

Source: “David and Goliath


During this time, while in Long Island on a work trip, he got a day off from his manager and went down to Wall Street and convinced a random ‘well-dressed guy’ to share a cab with him.

Source: Business Insider


The guy turned out to be an executive in a Wall Street brokerage firm that had just opened its options business. Cohn lied that he knew ‘everything’ about options to land an interview.

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REUTERS/Dylan Martinez

Source: “David and Goliath


Cohn read McMillan’s ‘Options as a Strategic Investment’ in a few days to learn about options and cracked the interview — to get the job of a runner in the trading floor.

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Amazon

Source: “David and Goliath


Goldman Sachs recruited Cohn in 1990, marking the beginning of a 26-year career at the bank where he dealt with different securities.

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Twitter.com/GoldmanSachs

Source: Bloomberg


In 1994, he made partner. At the time, he was based in London, and managing a big trading book. ‘That first year as partner, you know, I got to the point where I was trying to be a trader and trying to be a manager and trying to manage the business,’ he said.

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Retuers/ Luke MacGregor

Source: Goldman Sachs


He decided to call his boss and spent 40 minutes on the phone telling him about how he wasn’t able to balance trading and managing. His boss told him to figure it out and hung up on him.

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Thomson Reuters

Source: Goldman Sachs


Cohn realized he had to make a choice. ‘I came in the next morning, I called everyone in my department into a big conference room, and I announced to the room that I will no longer trade anything,’ he said.

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Goldman Sachs

Source: Goldman Sachs


He went on to become president and COO at Goldman Sachs, and one of the most recognizable faces at Goldman Sachs.

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Goldman Sachs

Then, in late 2016, Cohn announced he would leave Goldman to take up a role as director of the National Economic Council, an advisory role to President Trump on US and global economic policy.

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REUTERS/Mark Makela

Source: Business Insider


At the time, he was expected to pick up an exit package worth at least $100 million (£79.8 million) as he prepared to go to work for the Trump administration. The move had raised ethical questions about special treatment of Goldman’s staff entering public service, and vice versa.

Gary Cohn.

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REUTERS/Lucas Jackson

Source: Business Insider


On March 6, 2018, Cohn announced his resignation, which came after a year of near-constant turmoil within the administration.

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Drew Angerer/Getty images

Source: Business Insider


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The incredible life of billionaire investing legend George Soros