Legendary Wall Street dealmaker and Lazard CEO Bruce Wasserstein died on Wednesday, a spokesperson for Lazard confirmed with IDD. He was 61.
Wasserstein was hospitalized over the weekend for an irregular heartbeat. According to a statement issued by the banking firm on Sunday evening, “His condition is serious, but he is stable and recovering.”
Wasserstein became chairman and CEO of Lazard in May 2005, when the firm went public. He had been head of Lazard and chairman of the executive committee of the firm's holding company since January 2002. Under the terms of his contract, Wasserstein was to remain at the head of the company until 2012.
Prior to Lazard, Wasserstein co-founded Wasserstein Perella Group in 1988 and served as CEO until the firm was sold to Dresdner Bank in 2001. Before Wasserstein Perella, he was co-head of investment banking at First Boston.
Aside from his Lazard duties, Wasserstein, who would have turned 62 on Dec. 25, was chairman of private equity firm Wasserstein & Co. and owned New York Media Holdings, which publishes New York magazine. Through his private equity fund Wasserstein & Co., Wasserstein also owned busines media company The Deal LLC.
His sister, Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright Wendy Wasserstein, died in January 2006. Another sister, Sandra Meyer, the first woman to run corporate affairs at Citicorp and the first woman to oversee an American Express division, died in December 1997.
Earlier this year, Fortune listed Wasserstein among its top billionaires and estimated his net worth at $2 billion.
Wasserstein attended the University of Michigan and studied law at Harvard University. Prior to his work on Wall Street as a banker, he was a lawyer at Cravath, Swaine & Moore. From there he decamped to First Boston, where he began his career as a dealmaker and came of age in a decade -- the 1980s -- when M&A enjoyed a gilded age. His assignments on Wall Street included work as an adviser to KKR & Co. on its leveraged buyout of RJR Nabisco, a leveraged transaction that was not matched in size until recently and was chronicled in the best seller Barbarians At The Gate.