(Updates with quote from Blankfein and Cohn in third paragraph.)
Feb. 8 (Bloomberg) -- Lucas van Praag, who became one of the public faces of the U.S. financial industry as Goldman Sachs Group Inc.’s global head of corporate communications, is leaving the firm after 12 years.
Van Praag, a 62-year-old British citizen, will retire at the end of March and continue to provide strategic advice as a consultant to the company, according to an internal memo signed by Chief Executive Officer Lloyd C. Blankfein and President Gary D. Cohn. The memo’s contents were confirmed by Michael DuVally, a spokesman. Van Praag was promoted to partner, the highest rank in the New York-based company, in 2006.
“Lucas has played a critical role in helping the firm navigate through one of the most difficult and testing environments the firm has faced, particularly during the financial crisis and its aftermath,” Blankfein and Cohn said in the memo. “His strategic counsel and deep understanding of complex issues defined his career at the firm as did his warmth, natural inclusiveness and determination in the face of relentless demands.”
Goldman Sachs, the fifth-biggest U.S. bank by assets, has been in talks with Richard “Jake” Siewert Jr., 48, a former counselor to U.S. Treasury Secretary Timothy F. Geithner, to manage the bank’s communications department, three people familiar with the situation said last week. Siewert worked as a press secretary for President Bill Clinton and managed corporate development and public strategy at Alcoa Inc. before joining Treasury in 2009.
Other Partners Leave
Van Praag follows about 50 partners who left Goldman Sachs in the last year amid sagging profits and pay. Six members of the firm’s management committee, including trading co-heads David B. Heller and Edward K. Eisler, also left in the last 12 months. The company eliminated 2,400 jobs last year as it reduced compensation 21 percent.
Goldman Sachs, the most profitable securities firm in Wall Street history before converting to a bank in 2008, has been criticized by regulators and politicians for activities leading to 2008’s financial crisis. Blankfein, 57, settled a Securities and Exchange Commission lawsuit against the firm in 2010, reviewed the company’s business standards and rolled out an advertising campaign.
Van Praag became known for his disparaging rebuttals to negative stories, favoring phrases like “nonsense” and “extraordinarily ill-informed.” Goldman Sachs partners are typically the firm’s highest compensated employees. Van Praag paid $7.85 million in August 2008 for a townhouse on New York’s Upper West Side, the Real Deal reported at the time, citing public records.
--With assistance from Cristina Alesci in New York. Editors: William Ahearn. David Scheer
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