Michel David-Weill, who off thursday night in New York on the age of 89, may have marked the historical past of Lazard and the enterprise world like few French actors. “Michel led Lazard with infallible firmness, stated Friday the funding financial institution he chaired from 1975 to 2001. His inspiration, his management and his imaginative and prescient outline Lazard as we speak. He must be buried within the Montparnasse cemetery in Paris, alongside the households of the financial institution’s predominant companions.
Direct descendant of Alexandre Weill, who left for the USA in 1856 to hitch Lazard Frères, Michel David Weill managed to unify the branches of New York, Paris and London underneath the identical roof, making the household enterprise financial institution a vital pillar of French capitalism, but additionally transatlantic. The affect of this patron and artwork collector, born right into a Jewish household earlier than being baptized and introduced up within the Catholic religion, has gone far past the monetary world, as evidenced by the various tributes aroused by his demise. “The President of the Republic salutes a visionary participant within the financial world, who lavished his abilities and his presents on our French firms, our heritage and our arts”, declared the Elysée particularly in a press launch. A glance again at six key moments in a unprecedented life and profession.
His first strokes of brilliance
It’s tough to summarize the trajectory of this inheritor, typically introduced because the “Solar King” of finance, who shared his life between Paris, New York, London and his properties, together with his villa “Leeward” on Cap d’Antibes, the place he hosted the cream of enterprise, politics and the humanities in the summertime. Born November 23, 1932, the son of Pierre David-Weill and Berthe Haardt studied on the Lycée Français in New York, then at Sciences Po Paris earlier than becoming a member of the financial institution in 1956. Andre Meyer one of the crucial good bankers of his technology, nicknamed the “Picasso of finance”, who launched him to American affairs.
His baptism of fireside? The hostile takeover of Lazard Frères in 1964 on Franco Wyoming, an organization with oil property straddling France and the USA. Daring, the operation shocks New York however its success will encourage Michel David-Weill. Returned to Paris, 4 years later he suggested the small Lyonnais glassmaker Boussois-Souchon-Neuvesel (BSN) when he launched a hostile takeover bid for Saint-Gobain, 5 instances greater than him.
The operation, which can divide the Parisian elite between the ancients and the moderns, finally ends up failing. Nevertheless it gave delivery to a enterprise relationship and an unwavering friendship between Michel David-Weill and the president of BSN and future founding father of Danone, Antoine Riboud. It would additionally set up the authority of the inheritor within the face of associates with acknowledged personalities corresponding to Antoine Bernheim, Felix Rohatyn or Bruno Roger.
The start of the reign
On the demise of his father, Pierre David-Weill, in 1975, Michel took over the presidency of Lazard Paris, then two years later, the presidency of the financial institution in New York. In September 1979, André Meyer died. In a scene worthy of a movie, described by Martine Orange in her ebook “These Gents of Lazard” (Albin Michel, 2006), Michel David-Weill takes benefit of the burial of his mentor within the Montparnasse cemetery to method Sir Ian Fraser, the president of Lazard London, a rapprochement of the three homes.
Within the procession, the members of the financial institution don’t consider their eyes, says the journalist. Michel David-Weill is within the strategy of taking energy, with out losing a second… “behind the coffin of André Meyer”. “I am the boss as a result of I am not afraid”, defined later in an interview the person who stated he was fascinated by the seizure of energy by Louis XIV.
The inheritor to the Lazard home is just not an distinctive banker, however he is aware of how one can use his deal with ebook and his political sense to proceed to develop the financial institution, which within the Nineteen Eighties grew to become one of many world leaders. within the space of mergers and enterprise advisory. Michel David-Weill inherited at the moment his nickname of “final emperor of Wall Avenue”.
The “Ministry bis of Trade”
The cohabitation of 1986 opens a brand new period for Lazard and its CEO. The Prime Minister, Jacques Chirac, and his Minister of Financial system and Finance, Edouard Balladur, are launching a significant wave of privatizations . And the celebrated funding financial institution, which in contrast to its rivals Paribas and Rothschild had managed to flee the nationalization motion, is aware of how one can reap the benefits of it.
Funding banking is about managing people. All of Lazard’s associates have been distinctive. To decide on was to kill. It could have been to surrender the deserves of all of the others.
Michel David Weill
Related to all the main privatization operations, together with the primary and most symbolic, that of Saint-Gobain, it even grew to become “the second Ministry of Trade”, as Martine Orange writes in her ebook. “Not a deal, not a capital enhance, not a motion” is just not executed with out Lazard, who can even pilot the opening of the capital of Renault and the IPO of France Telecom. Between 1986 and 1988, the financial institution noticed its income in France multiplied by three.
It was additionally within the Nineteen Eighties that Lazard, underneath the path of Michel David-Weill, participated within the building of the commercial empires of Bernard Arnault, François Pinault and Vincent Bolloré, and their fortune. The financial institution develops, due to the monetary ingenuity of Antoine Bernheim, a cascading holding system that permits the main shareholder to manage an empire with a decreased capital outlay. A monetary innovation that can be one of many hallmarks of the home.
The expertise drain
However the autocratic administration of Michel David-Weill additionally has its limits. Admittedly, he is aware of how one can spot abilities, usually extremely certified (X, ENA, Inspection des funds, and many others.) and handed by means of the nationwide palaces like Matthieu Pigasse or Anne Lauvergeon. However somewhat than governing, he reigns by sustaining rivalries.
“We’d have preferred me to indicate favouritism,” stated the person who obtained the companions one after the other every year in his workplace to solemnly announce their lavish bonuses. I’ve at all times refused. Funding banking is about managing people. All of Lazard’s associates have been distinctive. To decide on was to kill. It could have been to surrender the deserves of all of the others. »
However within the Nineteen Nineties, Michel David-Weill skilled main departures. In fast succession, a number of banking stars are leaping ship, giving up large affect and pay. That is the case of Jean-Marie Messier, who joins one other legend of French capitalism, Man Dejouany, at Générale des eaux. Or Felix Rohatyn, pillar of the New York construction.
In query, particularly: the rise to energy of Edouard Stern, inheritor to the eponymous banking household and married to his daughter Béatrice. The good however controversial banker was seen because the inheritor obvious to Michel David-Weill. He’ll go away the financial institution in 1997, earlier than being assassinated eight years later. However the harm is completed. The haemorrhage of expertise weighs on enterprise, whereas the everlasting rival, Rothschild, achieve market share.
The Battle of Imperial Avenue
Apparently, the transaction is solely technical. In April 2001, Michel David-Weill accomplished the ultimate restructuring of Lazard’s management construction. He merges Eurafrance and Azeo, with a view to uniting the three homes in Paris, New York and London. That is the delivery of Eurazeo, an funding firm which owns 17% of Lazard, and shares in Generali, Mediobanca and Danone.
However this operation is above all of the epilogue of a showdown that the “emperor” virtually misplaced. A struggle in opposition to Vincent Bolloré, who with the assistance of Antoine Bernheim, noticed a flaw within the management construction. For months, the businessman, benefiting from the tacit assist of some funding funds and the Swiss banking big UBS, purchased shares in Rue Impériale de Lyon, the holding firm of the Lazard galaxy. He finally ends up holding 31% and finds himself ready of power. It’s the Crédit Agricole which can come to free the patriarch by shopping for again his shares from Vincent Bolloré for almost 4 billion francs, roughly double his preliminary funding.
No matter occurs subsequent, I can by no means eliminate the concept that this home is mine.
He is not going to contemplate leaving Eurazeo till the monetary disaster. The complete exit from Crédit Agricole of Eurazeo, in 2017, will set off a brand new raid, that of the rival Tikehau. A brand new long-term investor takes over, the Decaux family, which buys the shares of the inexperienced financial institution.
Entrance to Wall Avenue, the final battle
“They’ll kill Lazard. Michael is loopy. He lets them. Within the fall of 2004, Antoine Bernheim, the previous kingmaker of European capitalism and ex-partner of Lazard, didn’t need to consider that Michel David-Weill left a Wall Avenue icon, Bruce Wasserstein, entrust the destiny of the highly effective household enterprise financial institution to the fingers of the Inventory Alternate.
That is the purple line that the monarch of finance has at all times set: “The financial institution is just not listed and won’t be”, he declared in 2000. However to this dolphin, who has simply offered his Wasserstein Perella boutique on the German financial institution Dresdner Financial institution, Michel David-Weill may have given up every thing to persuade him to write down the remainder of the historical past of the funding financial institution and enthrone him. Till the primary needs to definitively oust the second.
By dint of lavish bonuses and costly recruitment of stars by Bruce Wasserstein, Lazard finds himself taken by the throat and information the primary losses in its historical past. You must elevate capital, insists the brand new grasp of Lazard, who is aware of that itemizing can also be a technique to erase the financial institution’s household DNA. “To cite the home is to interact it in the direction of trivialization”, opposes Michel David-Weill. The passes of arms have gotten increasingly violent inside the home.
“I’ll make you wealthy”, guarantees Bruce Wasserstein to the companions, opposing the “employees” of the financial institution to the “capitalists” who personal it and obtain beneficiant dividends every year. The funding financial institution goes public on Might 5, 2005. The household is diluted and the American banker turns into sole grasp on board for less than a short while. He died all of the sudden of a coronary heart assault 4 years later.
For Michel David-Weill, the time has come to maneuver away from Lazard. He then fell again on Eurazeo, the place he held the chairmanship of the supervisory board till final April, serving to to make it a affluent funding firm. However in his thoughts, the hyperlink with the financial institution that he may have helped to carry to the highest won’t ever actually be damaged, as he confided in 2005: “No matter occurs subsequent, I’ll by no means have the ability to eliminate the concept that this home is mine. »