Six of Wasserstein's banking team follow his trail to Lazard

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Six top investment bankers have followed their former boss Bruce Wasserstein and quit Dresdner Kleinwort Wasserstein for Lazard, its smaller, privately owned rival.

Mr Wasserstein, a veteran Wall Street banker who was involved in some of the biggest deals of the 20th century, was appointed head of Lazard in November and started work last week.

Among the defecting bankers only one, Alasdair Nisbet, a specialist in the chemicals industry, is based in London. The others are New York-based managing directors in mergers and acquisitions and have expertise in services companies, consumer products, media, and financial services.

It is thought the moves do not represent any breach of the terms agreed by Mr Wasserstein that governed his departure from his former employer. The bankers have begun three months' paid "gardening leave" ahead of starting at Lazard.

It was unclear yesterday whether the group had completed contractual negotiations with Lazard. Some are thought to be in line for equity stakes of as much as 1 per cent in the firm. Lazard's working partners control 60 per cent of its equity, with external investors owning the remainder.

With Lazard already strong in financial services and media, Mr Wasserstein's appointments in these sectors imply that he expects them to dominate any recovery in corporate activity this year. Services, retail and consumer products have been areas of weakness for the firm of late. Last week Lazard announced a shake-up of its structure in an attempt to make more equity available to its partners.

Dresdner Kleinwort Wasserstein and Lazard both declined to comment.