City People

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The Independent Online
LAZARDS HAS always been a peculiar beast, consisting of three independent merchant banks in Paris, London and New York linked together by a common family history.

No longer. Michel David-Weill, chairman of Lazard Partners and a member of the original founding family, announced last week that he had decided to merge the banks into one. He will continue to head the whole lot, as chairman of a global executive committee.

Mr David-Weill provided an explanation of the historic move in an interview with the French newspaper Le Figaro yesterday. He said: "One of the advantages of this new organisation is to facilitate the emergence of people from within Lazards capable of succeeding me."

Mr David-Weill denied that he will regret the passing of control of the bank from family hands.

"More than a family legitimacy, one must obtain a consensus. When I arrived [at Lazards] in 1977 in New York, it was at the behest of the bank. But I had to prove my capacities.

"The justification that I was the heir came well after that," he said. Speculating on his successor, he adds: "One day someone will emerge from the group. It will then be obvious." He doesn't say when, though.

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RICHARD DAVEY retires as executive vice chairman of the corporate finance division of NM Rothschild today, and he says his plans for retirement are "not to do much".

He's certainly had his hands full recently, advising Royal & Sun Alliance on how to react to strong rumours of a bid from CGU. Mr Davey, 50, will be unable to relax completely even when he's retired, however. He has just joined Dixon's Internet service Freeserve as a non executive director.

A specialist in financial services and insurance, Mr Davey is also a non-exec at Scottish Widows - although for how much longer must depend on whether Lloyds TSB's bid for the insurer succeeds. Who knows, perhaps Mr Davey will wind up on the Lloyds TSB board.

This could get in the way of his only other ambition on retirement - to qualify as a yacht master. He is already a keen sailor and owns his own boat.

Mr Davey is described by colleagues as "very popular in the firm", as was shown on Monday night when more than 150 guests showed up to his leaving do at the Innholders Hall in the City.

He spent most of his career with Rothschilds, apart from a short spell with Merrill Lynch in the 1980s, having started off a decade earlier with Slater Walker.

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BRITISH AIRWAYS has hit upon a brilliant scheme to prove that its aircraft will be immune from the millennium bug.

Some fear that the inability of on-board computers to deal with the year 2000 date will cause aircraft to fall from the sky. In order to still such fears, BA is flying a jetload of journalists from Heathrow to Nice for lunch next Monday.

Half-way through the flight the crew will turn all the aircraft's computers to midnight 31 December. After lunch, the exercise will be repeated on the way back to London.

The most senior BA staff member on the flight will be Mike Jeffrey, director of flight crew. Chief Executive Bob Ayling and his fellow board members will remain on terra firma.

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THE CONFIRMATION yesterday that Frank Newman, the chief executive officer of Bankers Trust and co-chairman of Deutsche Bank, will be leaving the combined group following the acquisition of BT has prompted a sigh of relief from both banks, I hear.

Mr Newman, a former deputy secretary to the Treasury in the US, was brought in by BT in the mid-1990s to stabilise the investment bank following a series of damaging derivatives scandals.

Despite proving a safe pair of hands, his reign was not a popular one, I hear, not least because of the influence wielded within BT by Mr Newman's wife Lizbeth, who some critics rather unkindly dubbed "the Imelda Marcos of Bankers Trust".

Much of the work of an investment bank boss is social, pressing the flesh with local heads of state around the world. It was in this arena that Lizbeth Newman made her presence felt, helping out with the lavish entertaining of clients.

All good things come to an end and following the Deutsche acquisition Lizbeth was banned from the corporate jet.

At least Mr Newman will be able to soften the blow with his rumoured $100m payoff - although his five-year contract only stipulates a payoff of a mere $55m. Very hard times indeed.

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