JPMorgan chief executive Jamie Dimon was recovering in a hospital following emergency heart surgery Thursday.
The procedure to repair an acute aortic dissection was successful, and Dimon was alert and “recovering well,” the bank said in a memo to employees.
Dimon, 63, checked himself into a Manhattan hospital early Thursday after experiencing chest pains while getting ready for work, according to a person familiar with the matter. The medical staff made a quick diagnosis, the person said, and Dimon spent the morning sending emails before the several-hour surgery.
An aortic dissection is the abnormal separation of tissues in the wall of the aorta, the large blood vessel that carries blood from the heart to the rest of the body. It is a rare but very serious condition that occurs most commonly in men in their 60s and 70s, according to the Mayo Clinic. The inner layer of the aorta suddenly tears. Blood then flows through the opening, causing the inner and middle layers of the aorta to separate.
Its symptoms are similar to those of a heart attack, making it sometimes hard to diagnose. The condition is often fatal but can be treated if caught early. Actor John Ritter died of an aortic dissection in 2003, when he was in his 50s.
“The good news is that it was caught early,” the memo said of Dimon’s illness.
This is the second big health scare for Dimon in recent years. He was diagnosed with throat cancer in 2014 and made a full recovery.
JPMorgan co-presidents Daniel Pinto and Gordon Smith are leading the bank while Dimon recuperates, they said in the memo. Pinto runs JPMorgan’s investment bank, and Smith heads its sprawling consumer bank. Their elevation was set out in the bank’s emergency succession plan — widely known within the bank as the “Jamie getting hit by a bus” plan, according to a person familiar with the matter.
Dimon’s sudden illness is likely to revive speculation about when he will step down from the bank he has led since 2004. The longest-serving CEO of a US megabank, Dimon shepherded JPMorgan through the financial crisis. Today, it is the largest US bank by assets and Dimon — who earned $31.5m in 2019 — is paid more than any of his big-bank peers.
Dimon has said he is in no hurry to leave. When asked about his plans earlier this year, he said he expected to retire in five years. It is the same answer he has given for at least six years.
“My statement stays the same — it’s five years,” he said on an earnings call with reporters in January. “When and if we ever set an actual retirement date, we’ll let you know.”
If that timeline holds, the top contenders to succeed him are Marianne Lake, who runs JPMorgan’s consumer-lending business, and chief financial officer Jennifer Piepszak. JPMorgan elevated the women last year in a reshuffling that signaled their position atop the list of possible successors.
Pinto and Smith have long been considered among the top candidates to succeed Dimon if he were to step down sooner than planned. Closer in age to Dimon, the two men are seen as less likely to get the top job if Dimon retires on schedule.
As co-presidents and co-chief operating officers, Pinto and Smith are heavily involved in managing the bank’s day-to-day operations.
“We have been working hand-in-hand with Jamie and the Board over the past two years to help lead our company,” they said in the memo to employees. “We have also been deeply involved in all of the critical firmwide functions.”
Dimon’s illness comes at a difficult time for JPMorgan, which, like other big banks, is grappling with the spread of the coronavirus epidemic. Bank stocks have fallen sharply on fears that the outbreak will weigh on the US economy, and they are scrambling to figure out when and where to move staff to make sure they can keep trading and moving money around for clients.
Dimon’s top lieutenants have banned global travel and put in place plans to spread out some employees to different offices and have others work from home, people familiar with the matter said.
This article was published by The Wall Street Journal