A grand and revelatory portrait of Wall Street’s most storied investment bank
Wall Street investment banks move trillions of dollars a year, make billions in fees, pay their executives in the tens of millions of dollars. But even among the most powerful firms, Lazard Frères & Co. stood apart. Discretion, secrecy, and subtle strategy were its weapons of choice. For more than a century, the mystique and reputation of the "Great Men" who worked there allowed the firm to garner unimaginable profits, social cachet, and outsized influence in the halls of power. But in the mid-1980s, their titanic egos started getting in the way, and the Great Men of Lazard jeopardized all they had built.
William D. Cohan, himself a former high-level Wall Street banker, takes the reader into the mysterious and secretive world of Lazard and presents a compelling portrait of Wall Street through the tumultuous history of this exalted and fascinating company. Cohan deconstructs the explosive feuds between Felix Rohatyn and Steve Rattner, superstar investment bankers and pillars of New York society, and between the man who controlled Lazard, the inscrutable French billionaire Michel David-Weill, and his chosen successor, Bruce Wasserstein.
Cohan follows Felix, the consummate adviser, as he reshapes corporate America in the 1970s and 1980s, saves New York City from bankruptcy, and positions himself in New York society and in Washington. Felix’s dreams are dashed after the arrival of Steve, a formidable and ambitious former newspaper reporter. By the mid-1990s, as Lazard neared its 150th anniversary, Steve and Felix were feuding openly.
The internal strife caused by their arguments could not be solved by the imperious Michel, whose manipulative tendencies served only to exacerbate the trouble within the firm. Increasingly desperate, Michel took the unprecedented step of relinquishing operational control of Lazard to one of the few Great Men still around, Bruce Wasserstein, then fresh from selling his own M&A boutique, for $1.4 billion. Bruce’s take: more than $600 million. But it turned out Great Man Bruce had snookered Great Man Michel when the Frenchman was at his most vulnerable.
The LastTycoons is a tale of vaulting ambitions, whispered advice, worldly mistresses, fabulous art collections, and enormous wealth—a story of high drama in the world of high finance.
From the Trade Paperback edition.
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|Title of History eBook: The Last Tycoons|
|Release Date: 04-03-2007|
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|Publisher: Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group|
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The Last Tycoons
Even among the great Wall Street firms—Goldman Sachs, Morgan Stanley, and Merrill Lynch—Lazard Frères & Co. stood apart, explicitly priding itself on being different from, and superior to, its competitors. For 157 years, Lazard had punched above its weight. Unlike other Wall Street banks, it competed with intellectual rather than financial capital and through a hard-won tradition of privacy and independence. Its strategy, put simply, was to offer clients the wisdom of its Great Men, the finest and most experienced collection of investment bankers the world had ever known. They risked no capital, offering only the raw Darwinian power of their ideas. The better the idea, and the insights and tactics required to achieve the result contemplated by it, the greater was Lazard's currency as a valued and trusted adviser—and the larger were the piles of money the Great Men hauled out of the firm and into their swelling bank accounts. The lucky few men—yes, always men—at Wall Street’s summit have always been portrayed as ambitious and brilliant on the one hand and unscrupulous and ruthless on the other. But the secret history of Lazard Frères & Co., the world’s most elite and enigmatic investment bank, twists parts of this conventional wisdom into knots of unfathomable complexity. The Great Men chronicled herein amassed huge fortunes—to be sure—but they refused to admit to anyone, least of all to themselves, that their pursuit of these riches led to relentless infighting. Instead they spoke, without irony, of being part of a Florentine guild and of advice whispered to heads of state