The Secret History of Lazard Frères
William D. Cohan
The author, William D. Cohan, an award winning journalist, devoted 17 years to investment banking, including six years at Lazard Frères in New York, and later became Managing Director of JPMorgan Chase & Co. His “The Last Tycoon” (TLC) is an 800-page epic of the biographies of those who comprise the history of Lazard Frères, from its humble creation by the four Lazard brothers in 1848, in New Orleans, as an outpost for French clothing, to a monster financial house with offices all over the world. In the process of buying and selling clothing in multiple currencies, the Lazard’s saw profit-opportunities in arbitrage that inspired them to become pioneers in investment banking, as they were among the leaders in financing businesses with no capital of their own. By 1874, they opened offices in San Francisco and had become millionaires. After disposing of their clothing business in 1876, they opened offices in New York as well and turned exclusively to investment banking. TLC is not to be confused with literature (or with F. Scott Fitzgerald’s novel, The Last Tycoon); it is history as depicted in fast-paced, emotionless, journalistic prose, through the lives of “the Great Men” who created it down to the present. It exposes the high drama of the world of high finance, the euphoria of success to the suicides that can be the handmaidens of failure. If you are fascinated by the internecine warfare of Wall Street and the minds that run it, you will enjoy TLC.