By Elizabeth Dilts Marshall
NEW YORK (Reuters) – JPMorgan Chase & Co (N:) Chief Executive Jamie Dimon is recovering from emergency heart surgery that took place on Thursday morning, with two deputies taking over as he recuperates, the bank said.
Dimon, 63, experienced a tear in his heart’s main artery, which was caught early and treated successfully, JPMorgan said, publicly releasing an internal memo.
He is “awake, alert and recovering well,” according to the memo.
The bank’s co-presidents and co-chief operating officers, Daniel Pinto and Gordon Smith, sent the message to all employees, and are running JPMorgan as Dimon recovers.
Dimon has been CEO of JPMorgan for over a decade, and is a larger-than-life figure on Wall Street.
He has fashioned himself into a voice of the industry and become more active in Washington in recent years. He often uses his platform as head of the country’s largest bank to opine on issues that fall outside that scope, including immigration, education and healthcare.
At various times, Dimon has also mocked financial regulators, cursed during public appearances and joked about becoming U.S. president.
During his time at the helm of JPMorgan, Dimon has turned the bank into a global behemoth, with leading positions in many key businesses, through crisis-era acquisitions as well as opportunistic market-share grabs.
His most vulnerable time as CEO may have come after a trader known as “the London Whale” caused billions of dollars’ worth of losses from derivatives positions in 2012 that management overlooked.
Industry analysts characterized Pinto and Smith as capable hands at the helm of JPMorgan, but noted that Dimon’s health scare raised new questions about who will succeed him for the long term. He also battled throat cancer after a diagnosis in 2014 that sidelined him for several months.
“The bottom line is that Mr. Dimon is often viewed as a steady hand for the banking industry during turbulent times (like we are in now),” KBW analyst Brian Kleinhanzl said in a note to clients, referring to recent market chaos and economic concerns stemming from the coronavirus outbreak. “Not having him at the helm of JPMorgan is a modest negative.”
The condition for which Dimon had surgery on Thursday is called an acute aortic dissection.
It involves a tear to the inner layer of the aorta, according to the Mayo Clinic’s website. It can be fatal if the rupture stems through the outside aortic wall.
When Dimon was going through cancer treatment, he curtailed travel and made fewer public appearances, but eventually recovered and got back to work.
Questions about who might succeed him have existed for years, as many executives who were viewed as potential successors left out of impatience or for other opportunities.
Pinto or Smith are relatively close in age to Dimon, who said in promoting them in 2018 that he wanted to stay in the job for five more years.
Two other people often talked about as potential CEOs are Marianne Lake, who runs JPMorgan’s consumer business, as well as Chief Financial Officer Jennifer Piepszak.
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