Wall Street Legends No 30 - Felix Rohatyn

Felix George Rohatyn (born May 29, 1928 in Vienna, Austria) is an American investment banker known for his role in preventing the bankruptcy of New York City in the 1970s, who also served as United States Ambassador to France. He was a long term advisor to the U.S. Democratic Party.

Rohatyn's family lived in France from 1934 to 1942, and fled the Holocaust in Poland with the help of Luiz Martins de Souza Dantas. Rohatyn graduated from McBurney School NYC. He received his Bachelor of Science degree in physics from Middlebury College in Vermont (where he joined Alpha Sigma Phi) in 1949 following which he joined the New York office of the investment bank Lazard Frères under André Meyer. He was made partner in the firm in 1961 and later became Managing Director. While at the firm, he was involved in numerous large deals, most notably advising the conglomerate ITT in its various acquisitions.

He became widely known in the 1970s for successfully restructuring New York City's debt and resolving the city's fiscal crisis. While running MAC for the city of New York, Rohatyn continued his deal making at Lazard. While capping his take at the firm at 6%, Rohatyn continued to be the preeminent rainmaker at Lazard well into the 1990s, completing such deals such as the acquisition of Columbia by Sony.

In 1991, Rohatyn chose to back Ross Perot, a long time client, instead of Bill Clinton, which resulted in him losing the coveted Secretary of Treasury position, despite being the most prominent Democratic economic voice for dozens of years. In 1996 the Clinton administration put forward his candidacy for the post of Vice Chairman of the Federal Reserve, but a formal nomination was not made because of ideological opposition from Republicans.

In 1990, he received The Hundred Year Association of New York's Gold Medal Award “in recognition of outstanding contributions to the City of New York.” Rohatyn is also the recipient of The International Center in New York's Award of Excellence.

In a January 17, 1997 interview on the Charlie Rose Show, Rohatyn stated that because of Wall Street’s new types of financial instruments (e.g., derivatives, swaps), to safeguard America’s businesses, America will never experience another recession.

On August 22, 2006, he was appointed by Lehman Brothers as chairman of its international advisory committee and as a senior adviser to its chairman, Richard S. Fuld, Jr.

On January 27, 2010, Rohatyn announced his return to Lazard as Special Advisor to Chairman and CEO.

Rohatyn served as United States Ambassador to France from 1997 to 2000 during the second Clinton Administration and is a Commander in theFrench Legion of Honor. He is a member of the Council on Foreign Relations, American Academy of Arts and Sciences, and serves as a Trustee for the Center for Strategic and International Studies.

While serving as Ambassador to France, Rohatyn opened a series of small diplomatic missions, called American Presence Posts, in Rennes,Toulouse, Bordeaux and Lille which brought American diplomats into contact with the people and leaders of those cities at lower cost than traditional Consulates.

He also delivered a memorable speech to D-Day veterans at Omaha Beach on the 55th anniversary of the Normandy Invasion in 1999. He told them that a 'democratic, prosperous Europe is the finest monument' to the veterans' exploits. He said, 'I ask the children here today to look around - you are in the company of real heroes'.

Source - www.wikipedia.com

Image: © Emmanuel Huybrechts

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