Lazard Ltd. is the parent company of Lazard LLC, a New York-based, independent investment bank with approximately 2,400 employees in 41 cities across 24 countries throughout Europe, North America, Asia and Australia. With origins dating back to 1848, the firm provides advice on mergers and acquisitions, restructuring and capital raising, as well as asset management services to corporations, partnerships, institutions, governments, and individuals. Lazard remained privately held until May 5, 2005, when the company conducted an initial public offering of its shares. In connection with its IPO, Lazard spun off its securities underwriting business, Lazard Capital Markets, which is now an independent firm.
Over time, the business expanded into the banking and foreign exchange businesses. Seeking to expand operations to Europe, the Lazard brothers opened offices in Paris and London in 1858 and 1870, respectively. By 1876, Lazard’s businesses had become solely focused on providing financial services. In 1880, Alexander Weill, the founding brothers’ cousin, assumed control of Lazard. The period between the two wars saw Lazard ensuring a supremacy in the banking world under the direction of Raymond Philippe, followed by André Meyer. The post World War II period saw the American operations expand significantly as a mergers and acquisitions specialist under the leadership of André Meyer and Felix Rohatyn. The firm then came to be controlled by Michel David-Weill in 1977, as the health of André Meyer began to deteriorate. Under David-Weill's leadership, the three houses of Lazard were formally unified as Lazard LLC in 2000.
In 2002, David-Weill hired Bruce Wasserstein as CEO. The pair subsequently became embroiled in a much-publicized corporate fight in which David-Weill said he regretted having ever hired Wasserstein. This tension culminated in May 2005, when Wasserstein completed an IPO of the firm, ending over 150 years of private ownership. Although David-Weill and other descendants of the founding family wanted to retain private ownership, they had pursued a policy of handing out company shares in remuneration packages to employees. As a result, many employees owned shares in Lazard, and since many of them wanted to cash out, they voted with Wasserstein to hold a public offering. Lazard continues to be led by Bruce Wasserstein, who holds the positions of Chairman and CEO.