The life of Sidney Weinberg is one of the select few rags-to-riches stories of people that have actually made a significant contribution to the world. Known by many nicknames such as “Mr. Wall Street” as popularized by the hit publication, The New York Times, and the “director’s director” by the respected business publication Fortune Magazine, there is no doubt that the mark that Weinberg has left in the business world remains to be felt up to today.
Starting from humble beginnings, Sidney Weinberg’s grit and dedication finally paid off as he made many successful accomplishments in his legendary career which continues to inspire the aspiring entrepreneurs of today.
From being the average rank and file employee, Sidney Weinberg’s wisdom and appreciation of the opportunities given to him in life quickly put him in a position to be a capable leader to others. Let us take a look at the life and legacy of one of the world’s most renowned business leaders.
Surprisingly, Weinberg did not have the luxurious life of privilege that people usually expected from someone who hit the big time of Wall Street. Sidney Weinberg started off from a simple family who led a simple life that did not have dreams of making it big — just getting by was enough.
Weinberg was born on October 12, 1981, to parents Pincus Weinberg, a Jewish immigrant who worked as a dealer of wholesale liquor, and Sophie Weinberg. He belonged to a big family which comprised eleven children in total, and with the expenses necessary to keep such a family up and running, Sidney Weinberg and his siblings lived an average and modest life.
The family also actively participated in the synagogue named Congregation Baith Israel Anshei Emes which was located in their local area of Brooklyn, New York. Weinberg’s mother Sophie took up the role as the president of the synagogue’s sisterhood branch from the years 1912 up to 1913.
On the other hand, his father Pincus served as the president of the organization from the year 1919 all the way up to 1921. As regulars, Sidney Weinberg and all of his siblings participated in Sunday school and Talmud Torah.
Sidney Weinberg also pursued his education at the P.S. 13 high school in their location, but he did not develop a budding interest in academics and Weinberg quickly grew tired of the dull life of schooling.
Turn of Events
After several displays of showing no interest in continuing his education, Weinberg was finally dropped from the high school curriculum. However, fate had other plans for Weinberg who had already caught the attention of people at his young age.
While there are many accounts as to how he was booted out of school, many agree that the teachers themselves had partly suggested that Weinberg should join the labor force and find a job instead.
In fact, one of his teachers even wrote a recommendation letter for Sidney Weinberg to help him with his employment. At the ripe young age of 10, Sidney Weinberg had taken up many small jobs such as selling newspapers, shucking oysters, and delivering feathers for a milliner (women’s hat maker).
However, Weinberg finally faced a turning point when he was fired from being a runner for three different brokerage houses due to a conflict of interest. Unemployed at the age of 16, he started job hunting until one firm by the name of Goldman Sachs finally took Sidney Weinberg in as an assistant janitor.
How Sidney Weinberg Started His Career
For $3 a week, Weinberg worked diligently in Goldman Sachs, making sure that the halls are sparking clean and well-organized. He also was assigned other tasks such as brushing hats and wiping the shoes of the firm’s partners as well.
For most of his time as an assistant, he was known to many in the firm as just a “boy”. The simple treatment he received when he was at the bottom would not last, however. Thanks to his dedication to his job and a likable personality, Sidney Weinberg would soon catch the attention of Paul Joseph Sachs, the grandson of the founder of Goldman Sachs.
Going about his regular routine with the same dedication every day from start to end, Paul Sachs was so impressed with Sidney Weinberg’s personality and work ethic that he first promoted the budding business leader to the mailroom which Weinberg quickly improved to perfection.
With Goldman Sachs employees getting their mail delivered at an even faster and more efficient rate, the top executives were all the more impressed with the humble Jewish boy from Brooklyn.
Delighted with Weinberg, Paul Sachs even went as far as to support him in enrolling in Browne’s Business College in Brooklyn by paying for the $25 tuition fee ($725 in today’s money) to help Weinberg with improving his penmanship — a skill that he was not able to fully develop after dropping out of school at such an early age.
However, Sidney Weinberg had to take a pause from his normal career when World War I broke out in 1917. Resigning from the company, Weinberg’s poor eyesight led him to be assigned as a cook and subsequently as a cargo inspector near the end of the war.
Returning to the Firm
With the war ended, Sidney Weinberg had the freedom again to return to Goldman Sachs to resume his regular duties. Luckily enough, his career had progressed enough that he was eventually offered a job as a securities trader with the firm.
However, it was Weinberg’s creativity as a trader that set him out from the rest of the pack. Instead of going the usual route and simply predicting when securities would increase and decrease in value, Sidney Weinberg tried a more unusual approach by creating a syndicate with his fellow traders to sell underwritings — managing the issuing and pricing of fresh issues in the process.
Appointment as Partner
Further impressing his bosses, Weinberg was eventually bought a seat in the prestigious New York Stock Exchange by Goldman Sachs in 1925. Just a few years later in 1927, Weinberg eventually climbed the ladder enough to be eligible for an appointment as an official partner of the firm.
Sidney Weinberg was tasked with managing several of the firm’s investment trusts including Goldman Sachs Trading Corporation which he led with Waddill Catchings — also known as the first partner of Goldman Sachs outside of the Goldman-Sachs family).
Weinberg’s stint with Catchings was not a smooth one, the latter had grown confident with the future projections for Goldman Sachs Trading Corporation, going as far as to increase the company’s initial offering from the starting price of $40 million to a whopping $100 million.
Investors were expected to fund at least $100 into the company at launch, and in just five days, the stock prices of Goldman Sachs Trading Corporation had skyrocketed to an impressive $326.
However, what Catchings failed to account for is the looming signs of an economic disaster which manifested in the events known as Black Tuesday and the Great Depression. What’s worse is that shortly after, Catchings went under fire for several alleged crimes such as insider trading and fraud.
Faced with insurmountable odds, Weinberg was faced with the huge task of recovering from the financial damage and scandal brought about by Waddill Catchings. With his excellent skills in risk management and financial wisdom, Sidney Weinberg was able to reverse the situation.
Subsequently, Catchings was kicked out of Goldman Sachs and Weinberg was offered the Senior Partner position that was made vacant instead. Immediately using his new promotion in order to sell a portion of the firm’s shares to compensate for the losses, Sidney Weinberg commanded even more respect from his peers.
Even with the organized efforts of Weinberg in the lead, Goldman Sachs would not make a full recovery until the 1950s. Not only that, but the people had also lost trust in the firm after its downfall with Catchings. Fortunately, Sidney Weinberg decided to restructure Goldman Sachs from trading to the investment bank industry.
The move would prove to be a wise one with investors flocking once again to the once disgraced Goldman Sachs in a comeback that would cement Weinberg’s legacy in the business world.
Besides making big moves in the world of business and investing, Weinberg’s incredible track record has also caught the attention of many other people from different sectors. In fact, with the influence and reputation that Weinberg has commanded ever since he started out small with Goldman Sachs, the world of politics was also inevitable for a persona such as him.
For his entire life, Sidney Weinberg has been a dedicated Democrat. Surely enough, he has made friends with big names from the party, most notably Franklin D. Roosevelt whom he met while working in the National Campaign Finance Committee of the Democratic Party.
When Roosevelt won the presidency, one of his early moves was to appoint Sidney Weinberg a seat in his inner circle of economic advisors as he was drafting a series of nationwide reforms known as the New Deal. Intentionally keeping investment bankers out of the Business Advisory and Planning Council that Roosevelt tasked him with, Weinberg chose top company executives that he wanted to establish connections instead. Roosevelt was impressed with Weinberg’s skills so much so that he gave him the nickname “The Politician”.
World War II
Once again, Sidney Weinberg was in the middle of another global war. As part of Roosevelt’s main circle, he was tasked with creating the Industry Advisory Committee which he successfully formed by relying on honesty and sincerity as his main tactics.
Avoiding cheap strategies in order to attract business leaders to the cause, Weinberg instead appealed to their sense of patriotism amidst wartime. Sidney Weinberg insisted that executives lend the committee their top talented “stars” to help with the war effort.
Thanks to Sidney Weinberg’s charisma, he was able to be successful with his networking efforts and he was effectively appointed as assistant to the War Production Board’s chairman, Donald Nelson.
After the War
The network that Weinberg was able to build during his time as head of the wartime councils and committees gave him an opportunity to further expand the reach of Goldman Sachs. With businesses in need of more funds because of the high expenses brought about by the war, the top executives all over the country reached out to Weinberg for assistance.
Having worked with them before, Weinberg had no reservations about partnering up with the said businessmen. Some of the companies that Sidney Weinberg was able to team up with include General Foods, General Motors, and National Dairy Products Corporation (also known as Kraft nowadays).
With the legacy, he was able to leave when he was a part of America’s most important team during the war and the accomplishments he was able to gain even before and after the war, Weinberg’s reputation was known among both the most powerful businessmen and the general public alike.
Goldman Sachs’ Rise to the Top
Besides teaming up with the country’s top companies, one of Sidney Weinberg’s most significant partnerships was with the renowned automobile company Ford when he established a working relationship with Henry Ford II, the then-leader of Ford Motor Company which at the time was the country’s top private corporation.
However, the expenses of wartime proved to be a struggle even for a company as huge as Ford. Thanks to Sidney Weinberg’s help in recruiting experts such as Ernie Breech and Theodore Yntema, Ford quickly recovered from the crisis and chose Goldman Sachs as their investment bank from there on out.
A grand total of $657 million (around $5 billion in today’s money) would be earned from the partnership which would cement Goldman Sachs as a legendary bank and Sidney Weinberg as Mr. Wall Street.
After a career that many could only dream of, Sidney Weinberg passed away in July 23, 1969. He was survived by his wife of 49 years Helen and their two sons, Sidney “Jim” Weinberg Jr. and John Livingston Weinberg who both worked under their father. The Weinberg family continued to be connected with Goldman Sachs even several generations after his death.
Surely enough, the life and legacy of Sidney Weinberg is a classic tale of the American Dream. From starting out a simple and humble life born to a family with enough means just to simply get by, Weinberg made a name for himself purely out of diligence and dedication to any job he was given — no matter how big or small.