CEO, Goldman Sachs investment banking
Born in: Johnston grew up in Deniliquin, NSW and went to university in Melbourne
Home Town: Melbourne
You might not know his name, but trust us: Christian Johnston is one well-connected individual.
When a CEO, board or government wants to wheel and deal, they go to "CJ". The Goldman Sachs head of investment banking is one of the top corporate deal makers going around.
Not that you'd really know about his influence: the seemingly-invisible Johnston rarely leaves any fingerprints outside the business world. But inside the marble walls of high finance, it's often the baby-faced Johnston tugging at the strings of power.
"CJ's power comes from his relationships with blue-chip corporates," says one observer. "He has access to the most influential directors and CEOs, and influence over some of the biggest decisions they will have to make."
It's that influence which has seen Johnston and New York-based Goldman Sachs involved in a slew of giant deals over the years. Along with Matthew Grounds at UBS, the local incarnation of Goldman Sachs has become, under Johnston, one of the go-to investment banks for mergers and acquisitions.
The bank is leading the all-important investment banking league tables this year with $56.3 billion worth of announced deals, according to Dealogic. And that includes deals from inside government.
Johnston's team was the primary adviser to the NBN Co during its negotiations with Telstra, who recently sealed the $11 billion deal seen as one of the key steps in the federal government's $35.9 billion broadband project.
The NSW state government has also found itself bowing down at the altar of "CJ". It recently appointed Goldies as adviser to try and find a buyer for the privatisation of its $2.1 billion Sydney desalination plant.
NSW Treasury also brought Goldman Sachs in last year to handle the $1 billion sale of its 40-year lotto licence to Tatts Group. Johnston doesn't just have his fingers in a lot of different pies, he's got the entire bakery.
And he clearly works hard. Johnston gave a rare insight into his life as an investment banker in 2008, saying he works constantly on deals — even on the day his first child, Emma, was born.
"If a client wants to get me, no matter what time of night, then I have to be available," he told the AFR's Boss Magazine in 2008.
That determination to get a deal done is why Johnston is constantly in demand. And why he's bringing in giant fees from some of the country's biggest corporates.
Johnston has been the key adviser to Foster's for years (which currently sees him hard at work on the brewer's $10 billion hostile bid from SABMiller) and he's been a long-time adviser to private hospital operator Healthscope, playing a big part in its $2 billion sale to private equity in 2010.
Johnston's power also rests in his ability to help create corporate giants. In the media sector, Goldies is the current adviser to Austar in its $2 billion merger with Foxtel, which will create a new pay-TV giant if it gets by the ACCC.
He was also knee-deep in Woolworths' $1.3 billion takeover of liquor giant ALH in 2004, which has given it a significant foothold in the lucrative pub and pokies market. And he was a lead adviser on BHP Billiton's mammoth (and ultimately unsuccesful) $165 billion hostile bid to swallow fellow mining giant Rio Tinto in 2008.
But despite sounding like a typical A-type personality, Johnston is not your typical arrogant corporate high-flyer.
He's regarded as one of the most popular deal makers in the game, managing to do business in the rough-and-tumble world of investment banking without making enemies. Those who know him praise his style, saying he is respectful and patient with clients and always puts his team first.
"You're not struck by an ego, which is an unusual in an investment banker," says one long-time Johnston associate.
"He doesn't feel the need to talk a lot, but when he does, it makes sense," agrees another. "And he can make a point without being a prick about it."
Johnston grew up in the New South Wales country town of Deniliquin — a town most well-known for its annual ute muster, not producing investment bankers — before heading to Melbourne to board at the exclusive Scotch College.
He then went on to Melbourne University to study finance, where he fell in at Ormond College with a friendship group that would include fellow future banking big wigs TPG CEO Ben Gray, Macquarie Capital's Robin Bishop and Credit Suisse heavy John Knox. Knox was Johnston's best man at his Scotch College wedding in 2006.
The clique now forms what has become an investment banking brat pack, working either with or against each other on some of the country's biggest deals. Amongst others, Johnston worked with Gray on the TPG-led buyout of Myer in 2007.
At 38, Johnston is also one of only a handful of locally-based global partners at Goldman Sachs. It's a position that earned him a nice little $12 million pay day this year when Goldman bought out former local joint venture partner JB Were, giving the firm access to the Wall Street bank's $1 trillion balance sheet.
The father of three is also a keen cricketer, having played with his friend, Cricket Australia CEO James Sutherland, at Melbourne University. Johnson also does work with the Ricky Ponting Foundation, which is chaired by his friend, former Foster's chief Trevor O'Hoy.
Aside from that, there's not much else in the public domain about Johnston. He doesn't like talking too much, especially about himself. He declined The Power Index's requests for an interview.
As for what's next, one colleague says Johnston is settled doing what he does best — making things happen in the corporate world.
"I'd say next is a fair while off for him, I think he recognises that the role he's got and they want him to stick around. They really value him at Goldman."