Veteran banker Bruce Wasserstein quits DKW to become Lazard head

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The Independent Online

Bruce Wasserstein, the veteran banker who has been the driving force in many of the world's biggest deals, is to replace Michel David-Weill as the head of Lazard, one of the City's last remaining investment banking partnerships.

Mr Wasserstein, 53, quit his job as executive chairman of Dresdner Kleinwort Wasserstein, the investment banking unit of Allianz, yesterday after months of talks with Lazard. The discussions are thought to have commenced after Allianz dropped its commitment to float DKW, a pledge made when it purchased the unit in April.

Mr Wasserstein said: "We've been discussing this possibility from time to time for over 15 years. When I began my own firm, I aspired for it to become like Lazard." Mr David-Weill, 69, is to surrender executive responsibilities and become chairman of the board.

Mr Wasserstein, who becomes the second-largest shareholder in the firm, achieved fame as an adviser to Kohlberg Kravis Roberts on its $25bn (£17bn) buyout of RJR Nabisco in 1989, which was immortalised in the book Barbarians at the Gate. He went on to work on the merger of the investment banks Dean Witter and Morgan Stanley, Wal-Mart's purchase of Asda and the creation of AOL Time Warner. He established Wasserstein Perella & Co, making $600m when it was sold for $1.6bn to Dresdner Bank last year.

Marcus Agius, head of Lazard's operations in London, said: "Bruce understands how to run investment bankers. He's got that je ne sais quoi that certain investment bankers have."

Lazard has become more accustomed to high-profile departures this year, seeing the defection of its former London chairman David Verey to Cazenove and the recent resignation of its chief executive William Loomis. Asked whether the latest appointment signalled an end to Lazard's boardroom upheaval, Mr Agius said: "I hope so."