Lazards picks polling day for $1bn stock market debut

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The Independent Online

The keenly-awaited flotation of the investment bank Lazard is expected to happen on the New York Stock Exchange on 5 May, ending the 157-year-old bank's private partnership.

The keenly-awaited flotation of the investment bank Lazard is expected to happen on the New York Stock Exchange on 5 May, ending the 157-year-old bank's private partnership.

The initial public offering (IPO), which could raise up to $945.9m (£496m), will come after months of internal wrangling between Lazard's top executives.

Bruce Wasserstein, the chief executive, is in line for a windfall of at least $300m from the IPO. He fought a bitter battle last year with Michel David-Weill, the chairman, and some partners who did not want to end the bank's long history as a global partnership.

Lazard hopes to sell 30.5 million shares at $25 to $27, raising net proceeds of $730m. Underwriters will also have an option to buy an additional 4.57 million shares. At $26, the firm would be valued at $2.6bn.

The internal battles continue as three former senior Lazard bankers from its London arm are pressing Mr Wasserstein to use parts of the IPO proceeds to plug a $95m hole in the firm's pension fund. David Verey and Sir John Nott, former chairmen of Lazard in London, and John Nelson, a former vice-chairman wrote to Mr Wasserstein on Monday when he was meeting institutional investors in the United States. However, Mr Wasserstein wants to use the IPO proceeds to buy out Mr David-Weill and other founding partners for $1.6bn.

After the float, public investors would hold about 33.7 per cent of Lazard, with "working members" holding the rest.

The firm said in its IPO filing to the Securities and Exchange Commission in the US: "We are in discussions with the trustees of that pension plan aimed at reaching agreement regarding a deficit reduction plan as well as asset allocation." Britain's pension fund regulator, which came into existence earlier this month, is investigating the issue.

Two of the three former directors are still active in the City: Mr Verey is UK chairman of private equity group Blackstone, while Mr Nelson is deputy chairman of Kingfisher and sits on the boards of Hammerson and BT. Sir John has retired.

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