The Last Tycoons: The Secret History of Lazard Frères & Co.
William D. Cohan
Format: PDF / Kindle (mobi) / ePub
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.
to woo them. “To me, this was an outrageous breach of ethics,” Levy wrote in his 2002 memoir, The Mind of Wall Street. When, at a meeting at Lazard to discuss the matter, Levy complained to him about the hiring of Gullquist and Eig, Felix responded: “Look, this conversation is going nowhere. All of us have been through a divorce, right? Well, this is like any divorce where you have different sides.” Unmoved, Steve Robert, then president of Oppenheimer, barked to Felix, “You’re right. It’s like a
All this chatter evoked a blistering defense of Felix from his former partner Richard Emerson, then still at Microsoft: “Felix is truly the best banker that I have seen, from the details of the analysis through to the macro issues and on to the respect of the board. He is extremely diligent and motivated. Anyone who says less hasn’t been around him and certainly hasn’t earned his respect. And I was proud to be called his partner.” In addition to pursuing his deals, Felix worked on his memoir for
end of June that the firm’s only viable choice was to sell. Then he sought to round up support for his decision. Nothing was coming easily for him anymore. “A house divided against itself cannot stand,” Loomis wrote Evans, quoting from the famous Lincoln speech from June 1858. Evans responded: “Yes, indeed, but you will recall that he had some pretty big ‘restructuring’ to undertake a year or two after he made that remark”—a not so subtle reference to his preference to pursue the “restructuring”
drafting a registration statement. Although it was late to the IPO story, the Financial Times appeared to be emerging as the combatants’ favorite boxing ring. First, in May 2004, came the release of the curt letters regarding the firm’s accounting statements; then, on June 16, followed the leak—obviously from the Bruce camp—that Lazard was being “besieged” by bankers from other Wall Street firms pitching for the IPO of Lazard, which valued the firm at more than $3 billion. The pretext for these
and would just meet at the pied-à-terre for an hour or two, and then go their separate ways. Gaillet did not have a key to the apartment and, over time, began to notice she was not the only woman to be there with Felix. On occasion, she would see someone else’s earrings or lipstick lying around. According to Gaillet, one of the other women he was seeing at the same time—a married woman—tried to blackmail Felix, demanding that he buy her a fur coat in exchange for her not telling his wife about