JPMorgan Chase said Chief Executive Officer Jamie Dimon underwent emergency heart surgery and that it’s placing co-Presidents Daniel Pinto and Gordon Smith in charge during his recuperation.
Dimon experienced an acute aortic dissection, a serious condition involving a tear in the large blood vessel branching off the heart. “It was caught early and the surgery was successful,” the bank said in a statement. “He is awake, alert and recovering well.”
Dimon, 63, is the longest-serving head of a major U.S. bank, overseeing a juggernaut of both Wall Street and consumer lending that’s been setting profit records for the nation’s financial industry in recent years. He also serves as chairman and has frequently joked over much of a decade that he plans to keep running the company for five more years.
The surgery comes at a particularly turbulent time for the biggest banks. JPMorgan said this week it was halting most business travel amid the spread of coronavirus, and enacted continuity plans that send some traders to backup offices.
Aortic dissection is relatively uncommon, primarily striking men in their 60s and 70s, according to the Mayo Clinic. It can quickly become life-threatening. Blood surges through the tear, causing the inner and middle layers of the aorta to separate or dissect.
“If the blood-filled channel ruptures through the outside aortic wall, aortic dissection is often fatal,” according to the Rochester, Minnesota-based clinic.
Patients with the most severe form of the condition, known as type A, are most likely to undergo surgery. About 17% of those patients die in the hospital or within 30 days, according to a study published in September 2019 in the Scandinavian Cardiovascular Journal. Those who do well after surgery have a low mortality rate of about 3%.
Dimon was diagnosed with throat cancer in 2014 and underwent radiation treatment and chemotherapy. At the time, the bank’s board emphasized that it works hard to ensure leadership talent is on hand in case of an emergency. At the beginning of 2018, Dimon handed off some responsibilities to lieutenants Smith and Pinto as part of succession planning.
Smith, 61, runs the sprawling consumer bank with its 5,000 branches and major credit-card business. Pinto, 57, oversees the investment bank and has helped JPMorgan surge to the top of Wall Street’s trading ranks.
“We have exceptional leaders across our businesses and functions — led by our outstanding CEO and co-presidents,” the board’s lead director, Lee Raymond, said in a statement. “Our company will move forward together with confidence as we continue to serve our customers, clients, communities and shareholders.”