Gregg Lemkau joined Goldman as an analyst in 1992 and had been seen as a potential future chief executive © Bloomberg

Goldman Sachs’ co-head of investment banking Gregg Lemkau is leaving the Wall Street bank to run MSD Partners, an investment firm set up by computing entrepreneur Michael Dell.

Until Monday’s announcement, Mr Lemkau had been seen as a potential future chief executive at Goldman. The 51-year-old mergers and acquisitions banker, who joined Goldman as an analyst in 1992, will move to MSD Partners in February. 

MSD Partners works alongside Mr Dell’s family office, managing more than $15bn in assets in credit, private equity, property and public equities, with investments that have ranged from Ultimate Fighting Championship to the Four Seasons hotel in Maui.

M&A bankers were shocked at the departure of Mr Lemkau, who they saw as an important advocate at a time when Goldman’s focus has shifted towards lending and away from advising corporate titans. 

Jim Esposito, co-head of the global securities division, will replace Mr Lemkau at the start of 2021, according to a memo sent to the staff by David Solomon, Goldman’s chief executive.

Mr Esposito, 52, joined Goldman in 1995 as a salesman for emerging markets debt and rose through the ranks. Mr Esposito will work alongside Dan Dees, who has been co-head of the investment banking unit since 2018.

“Gregg has helped lead our efforts to continue to solidify and grow our pre-eminent investment banking franchise around the world,” Mr Solomon said. “The firm has benefited greatly from Gregg’s deep and expansive understanding of industries and markets, as well as his distinctive client service mindset.”

Mr Lemkau embodied the old-school Goldman banker. Throughout his career, he became a trusted consigliere to chief executives, particularly in media and tech, including Twitter’s Jack Dorsey, Uber’s Dara Khosrowshahi and Tesla’s Elon Musk. 

He also acted as an important adviser to Mr Dell when the tech billionaire decided to take his eponymous personal computer company private in 2013, and then again when Dell went public five years later.

Mr Lemkau will work alongside the firm’s co-founder and chief investment officer, John Phelan.

“As there are opportunities for substantial continued growth, this is an optimal time for a leader like Gregg Lemkau to join MSD Partners to help direct its strategy and execution,” Mr Dell said. “I’ve known Gregg for a number of years and think that he will be a great fit for the culture that has been built at MSD over two decades.”

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