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Lazard looking for bankers
graphic January 3, 2002: 4:51 p.m. ET

Dealmaker Wasserstein giving shares in Lazard to attract top execs.
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  • Wasserstein takes Lazard post - Nov. 15, 2001
    NEW YORK (CNN/Money) - Legendary dealmaker Bruce Wasserstein is looking to add a dozen investment bankers to the ranks of Lazard LLC in the United States.

    Wasserstein will be offering shares in 154-year-old Lazard to lure the key executives. On Thursday, Wasserstein unveiled the long-expected plans to give equity to the firm's 150 partners, a move that some think could lead to a sale or an initial public offering.

    Currently working partners own 60 percent of Lazard, with the rest owned by external capitalists, sources familiar with the situation told CNN/Money.

    Lazard Thursday also unveiled plans to better unite its three offices and named four executives the post of deputy chairman. Georges Ralli will run Lazard Paris, Kenneth Jacobs will head Lazard in the U.S., Georges Braggiotti from Italy will spearhead expansion in Europe, and Marcus Agius will oversee Lazard London.

    Wasserstein, 54, is head of Lazard LLC and is its second-largest shareholder. Wasserstein is now looking to revamp the once formidable Lazard, which has become an also-ran in M&A.

    Wasserstein is looking to boost the ranks of Lazard as the firm's profits have dropped by nearly 70 percent. The boutique investment bank is looking to add a dozen bankers during the next six months to its current 36 partners in the United States.

    Wasserstein is reportedly pitching deals to former executives of Wasserstein Perrella, the merger and acquisition firm he sold to Dresdner Bank last September.

    Allianz AG, which then acquired Dresdner, scrapped plans for an IPO of the firm, much to Wasserstein's frustration. In November, Wasserstein joined Lazard as executive head.

    Lazard is now looking to boost its ranks in Europe and will add a limited number of partners in the United Kingdom and France, the firm said.

    Wasserstein has reportedly contacted Chuck Ward, currently co-head of investment banking at Credit Suisse First Boston. When asked specifically by CNN/Money if he had been approached, Ward declined to comment.

    Wasserstein has also reportedly pitched a deal to former employee Jeffrey Rosen, now a deputy chairman at Dresdner, a unit of Allianz AG. Rosen and Wasserstein have known each over for nearly 20 years and were part of a core Wasserstein Perrella group.

    Rosen could not be reached for comment while Dresdner declined to comment.

    Up for sale?

    Wasserstein's plans to offer shares has some thinking that Lazard could still be looking to sell. Merger activity has dropped by 50 percent to $1.7 trillion and Lazard, once a top financial advisor, has fallen from the top ranks. Rival Goldman Sachs won the coveted top spot for advisors in 2001, according to data from Thomson Financial.

    Before the terrorist attacks in September, Lazard pitched a merger deal to Lehman Brothers under which Lehman would buy Lazard, a source close to the situation said. While profits at the boutique firm have fallen, several key executives--most notably former CEO William Loomis--have also departed.

    The arrival of Wasserstein late last year may have changed those merger plans. "Bruce has no plans to sell the company," another source familiar with the situation said.

    However, the offering of shares could also lead to an IPO for the boutique firm several years down the road, analysts have said. graphic


    Wasserstein takes Lazard post - Nov. 15, 2001