The cynics have been having a pop at Bruce Wasserstein ever since the Lazard head went to war last year with former firm chairman Michel David-Weill about whether Lazard should float. Many felt that Lazard was taking on too much debt. Some of the partners were said to be against the deal. Others just left. Lazard's share price quickly fell by almost 20% from its May offer price. Could Bruce have lost his touch ?
Of course not. Things look a whole lot different now. Lazard's third quarter profits were impressive, up 78% to $187m, as the firm's share of the global M&A pot increased from 9 to 10%. The share price has recovered, too. Currently trading at around $29, the value of the stock owned by Wasserstein and his family trusts is around $322m. Bruce's Lazard coup looks to be up there with the best deals he has ever done (the sale of Wasserstein Perella to Dresdner Bank for $1.4bn being the best - Bruce walked off with a cool $600m!).
And many who were critical of Wasserstein for hiring expensive bankers during the M&A downturn are taking their hats off to him now. He is now seen to have had the foresight to hire key bankers whose work is paying off for Lazard now. Bruce looks 'Almighty', after all.