Finance

Michel David-Weill United Lazard’s Finance Empire

Michel David-Weill,

the long-serving patriarch of the New York and Paris homes of the

Lazard

banking dynasty, expanded the funding boutique led by his forebears and knitted it extra carefully to its sister enterprise in London.

The Frenchman was credited with reviving the financial institution’s unsure fortunes after he took over in 1977—modernizing the storied franchise and globalizing its operations. Below Mr. David-Weill, the financial institution traded on its mystique as a discreet, family-owned counselor to a number of the world’s largest corporations.

He died Thursday, June 16, at his residence in New York at 89. He’s survived by his spouse, Hélène; 4 daughters, Béatrice, Natalie, Cécile and Agathe; and 11 grandchildren and 9 nice grandchildren. A famend artwork fanatic, he constructed a formidable assortment and gave generously to museums on either side of the Atlantic.

Typically with a cigar at hand, he led the financial institution with “an iron fist in a velvet glove,” a up to date instructed The Wall Road Journal in 1984. Mr. David-Weill, in a memoir, mentioned he simply favored a superb combat.

That’s what he bought after asking the legendary deal maker Bruce Wasserstein to take over the day-to-day operating of the financial institution. The 2 battled publicly over the course and destiny of Lazard within the early 2000s. Mr. Wasserstein in the end prevailed with a plan to take Lazard public, ending greater than a century of household management.

Mr. David-Weill was born in Paris on Nov. 23, 1932, into a part of the household that established and led Lazard for many years beforehand. His nice grandfather Alexandre Weill helped his cousins broaden the household dry-goods enterprise in New Orleans. They started transport and buying and selling gold in California earlier than the household moved into worldwide banking. By the late nineteenth century, semiautonomous Lazard banking operations have been operating in New York, Paris and London.

His childhood was interrupted by World Conflict II and the German occupation of France. He hid along with his mom and siblings from the Nazis in southern France, skipping a number of years of college, he later recounted, and ultimately becoming a member of his father, a scion of the Lazard clan, in New York. His older brother, Jean, died from typhus after spending years in a focus camp.

In New York, he attended the Lycée Français, a bilingual non-public faculty, earlier than shifting to Paris, the place he attended France’s prestigious Institut d’Études Politiques. He met his spouse, Hélène, on the motion pictures when a pal launched them, Mrs. David-Weill mentioned. She described him as shy on the time, however curious and enthusiastic.

“He was all the time very excited about all the things which was stunning and particular,” she mentioned.

Mr. David-Weill had a number of stints at different jobs in his 20s earlier than turning into a associate at Lazard Freres in Paris in 1961. He was all the time assured it was his future to run the financial institution, he recalled in his memoir, “A Style for Happiness,” revealed in 2015.

After taking cost of Lazard’s companies in each New York and Paris in 1977, he was credited with boosting income and increasing their remit past the normal offers enterprise. “Whereas many funding homes are shrinking or being merged out of existence, Lazard is spreading its wings,” the Journal reported in 1984.

In 2000, he consolidated the “homes” of Lazard in New York and Paris with Lazard’s London workplace, after shopping for full management of the Metropolis department. On the pinnacle of his energy, Forbes, in an article that very same yr, reported he was referred to internally because the “Solar King.”

“Lazard was his life,” mentioned Lazard Ltd. Chief Govt

Kenneth Jacobs.

“He wakened day by day fascinated about Lazard, and I’m fairly sure each evening earlier than he went to sleep he was fascinated about Lazard.”

Succession proved tougher. At one level, he pushed for elevating a son-in-law to take over, however met fierce resistance and backed down. Mr. David-Weill ultimately tapped Mr. Wasserstein, an American star deal maker, who represented a brand new, brasher technology of funding bankers. With Mr. David-Weill as chairman and majority shareholder and Mr. Wasserstein as chief government, the 2 fell out over spending, bonuses and plans for an preliminary public providing.

Mr. Wasserstein ultimately received out, efficiently itemizing the financial institution in 2005—a transfer Mr. David-Weill at first fought. A part of the deal concerned shopping for out Mr. David-Weill and different companions, ending his household’s management of the financial institution.

Write to Sara Ruberg at sara.ruberg@wsj.com

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