Among his most likely successors are Chief Financial Officer Harvey Schwartz, 52, and David Solomon, 54, one of three leaders of investment banking, according to people with knowledge of the company's politics. Their offices are doors down from Blankfein's on the 41st-floor executive suite within the firm's lower Manhattan headquarters.
Other candidates include two who've added responsibilities in recent years: Stephen Scherr, head of Goldman Sachs' newly formed consumer bank, and Marty Chavez, 52, the chief information officer who has spearheaded several new initiatives, the people said.
If Blankfein and the board elevate a younger generation of senior executives, Eric Lane, co-head of the investment management division, would probably make the list, two of the people said. John Waldron, who joined Solomon and Richard Gnodde atop the investment bank in late 2014, may also get consideration, one of them said.
Pablo Salame, 50, who helps lead the trading division, is also seen as a potential choice.
Joining the government could help Cohn sell his stake in Goldman Sachs without a hefty tax bill. He holds almost 562,000 shares directly and 311,000 in trusts and limited partnerships, according to a Nov. 11 filing. If he sold those to avoid the appearance of a conflict of interest, he'd be eligible to defer capital gains taxes, so long as he reinvests the proceeds in U.S. Treasuries or diversified funds.
For Cohn, that savings would be about $11.7 million, according to data compiled by Bloomberg.
Other Goldman Sachs alumni already are heading to posts atop the government despite the president-elect's fierce criticism of Wall Street — often naming the firm. Trump's closing ad in the campaign showed Blankfein's face, as the candidate said a corrupt global power machine was robbing the U.S.Earlier this week, Trump picked former Goldman Sachs executive Steven Mnuchin to be his Treasury secretary. Another Goldman alumnus, Stephen Bannon, was named chief strategist.
SkyBridge Capital founder Anthony Scaramucci, who also worked at the investment bank, is said by analysts to be under consideration for a job as a top Treasury deputy.
Some Trump insiders acknowledged the optical challenge of filling the incoming administration not only with wealthy people but with bankers from Goldman Sachs in particular, because of its status as a populist punching bag. To a degree, it's helpful that Mnuchin, Bannon and Scaramucci haven't worked at the firm in years, some of the people said.
Positioned as Blankfein's top lieutenant, the 6-foot-3 Cohn has long been seen as fiercely loyal to the CEO, serving as his eyes and ears and, sometimes, as his enforcer. For years, Cohn was known to walk the bank's floors, meeting with business heads, as well as clients and investors, a person who works with him said in 2011.
While colleagues and clients have described his style as abrasive, he has increasingly served as a public emissary of the bank in recent years, speaking on television and at conferences about the global economy, financial markets and the state of Wall Street.
Cohn doesn't boast the typical Wall Street pedigree of prep schools and Ivy League universities. Instead, he climbed the ranks with career bets bold enough to be featured in a book, and persevered through hard work.
A native of the Cleveland suburb of Shaker Heights, Cohn battled dyslexia and struggled to read throughout childhood, an experience that created an intense determination to succeed, according to a 2004 article published in Fortune magazine. On a day off from his job selling window frames and aluminum siding, he bluffed his way into his first Wall Street job as a trader on Comex, a New York commodities exchange, according to a commencement address he gave in 2009.
He joined a Goldman Sachs unit in 1990. By 1994 he was running Goldman's metals business from London when he was invited to become partner. Two years later, Blankfein asked Cohn to run the global commodities business.
He later rose to chief operating officer of the fixed-income, currency and commodities unit, and in late 2003, he became co-head of the firm's global securities businesses, which added responsibility for equities. Trading would propel Goldman Sachs to record Wall Street profits.
In June 2006, Goldman Sachs named Cohn and Jon Winkelried as co-presidents and co-chief operating officers, and the executives joined the company's board. With Winkelried's departure in 2009, Cohn is the only executive other than Blankfein, the chairman, to serve on the board.