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Business News

Lazard picks veteran to fill shoes of 'iconic' Bruce Wasserstein

Lazard, the gentlemanly giant of Wall Street financial advisory firms, has appointed an insider, Kenneth Jacobs, to fill the shoes of the late Bruce Wasserstein as its new chairman and chief executive.

The 51-year-old Mr Jacobs is known as a consummate dealmaker, and has been Lazard's North America boss since 2002, having joined Lazard from Goldman Sachs in 1988.

The sudden death of Mr Wasserstein on 14 October shocked the finance industry and set off a flurry of speculation about who would succeed him.

"We unanimously selected Mr Jacobs based on the balance of his vision, intellect and dynamism, his creativity building new businesses, and his skills as a trusted advisor, collaborator and team leader," the Lazard board said.

This year, Mr Jacobs's work with clients has included the Haas family's $16.5bn (£10bn) sale of their company, Rohm & Haas, to Dow Chemical, and GlaxoSmithKline's $2.9bn acquisition of Stiefel Laboratories.

Mr Jacobs prevailed not just over other internal candidates but also against the idea that the chairman and chief executive roles should be split.

Other potential chief executive candidates were promoted, nonetheless. Gary Parr, deputy chairman, will become a director, as will Ashish Bhutani, head of Lazard Asset Management.

Mr Jacobs was chosen to succeed Mr Wasserstein in large part because he provides a bridge to the days when Lazard was a private partnership, said William Cohan, author of the Lazard history The Last Tycoons. He played a key role in keeping the firm together through tumultuous times, as Mr Wasserstein turned Lazard from a partnership legendary for its private fiefdoms and infighting into a public company. "Jacobs has always been there for Lazard through all the upheavals the firm has had during the last ten years," Mr Cohan said. "He has always been the guy behind the scenes holding the firm together."

Lazard said Mr Jacobs was replacing an "iconic" man. Mr Wasserstein was one of the titans of Wall Street, famed and feared in equal measure. His particular brand of deal-making earned him the sobriquet "Bid 'em up Bruce" from rivals who said he drove clients to pursue their takeover prey at all costs.