Lazard’s story begins in the age of steamships and telegrams, with the emigration of five French brothers and several cousins to the United States. In 1848, Alexandre, Lazare, and Simon Lazard founded Lazard Frères & Co. in New Orleans as a dry goods merchant.
By 1851, Lazard Frères had moved to San Francisco, where it would expand into banking and foreign exchange. In the same year, one of the brothers opened a New York office. In 1854, Lazard Frères opened an office in Paris. It soon began advising the French government on gold purchases, and in 1870, the family opened an office in London.
Alexandre and Lazare Lazard, two brothers from Frauenberg, France, arrive in New Orleans. They immediately set to work buying goods wholesale in the city and selling items piecemeal to settlers and farmers. Within several years they invite a third brother, Simon, to join them.
The three brothers open their first store on New Orleans' Frenchmen Street, a short walk from the city docks. The Lazard brothers specialize in "dry goods", a term for fabrics, clothing accessories and related items.
Alexandre, Lazare and Simon Lazard give their partnership a legal framework, drawing up a contract that marks the founding of Lazard Frères & Co. They are soon joined by two younger brothers, Elie and Maurice, as well as several cousins from France.
Simon, Maurice and Elie open a new store in San Francisco to serve the booming local economy amid the California gold rush. The same year, Alexandre Lazard opens an office in New York City from which he oversees the Lazard Frères supply chain.
Alexandre Lazard moves to Paris and establishes Lazard Frères et Cie, overseeing the export of fine French fashion to meet demand in San Francisco.
Lazard Frères transitions out of retail and into banking. The company has a substantial clientele of French émigrés seeking to ship gold safely back to their families in France. Lazard begins assisting with shipping, evolving into the handling of commercial drafts and currency exchange, eventually expanding into lending services.
A Business Based on Relationships
In the late 1800s and early 1900s, the firm evolved into three 'Houses of Lazard' in the United States, France, and the United Kingdom, separately managed but allied. The Lazard partners advised clients on financial matters and enhanced their cross-border network of relationships in business and government.
Paris comes under siege in the Franco-Prussian war and Alexandre Lazard opens a temporary London office to ensure uninterrupted client service.
The Banking House of Lazard Frères is formally established as a family-run firm with a head office in Paris (Lazard Frères et Cie) and a branch in San Francisco.
The bank opens a London branch office at 60 Old Broad Street, called Lazard Brothers, and begins to establish correspondent offices around the world, including Asia.
The New York City branch of The Banking House of Lazard Frères is established in the Financial District.
A Culture of Accomplishment
Some of the greatest names in 20th century finance established and enhanced Lazard's reputation in the economic recovery following World War II.
They included André Meyer, widely regarded as a genius of investment banking; Michel David-Weill, who oversaw the firm's transformation into a mergers and acquisitions powerhouse; and Felix Rohatyn, whose many accomplishments include his pivotal role in saving New York City from bankruptcy in 1975.
In the latter part of the century, Lazard expanded into new markets around the world, becoming a global force in financial advisory and asset management. As the firm grew, Lazard fostered a unique culture that encourages individual initiative and discourages bureaucracy.
The San Francisco earthquake destroys the local Lazard office, but customer assets are preserved. The firm plays an active role in the city’s rebirth.
With the coming of the First World War, Lazard’s Paris office becomes short-staffed as its partners join the military, but it continues operations on behalf of the French government, assisting with financing needs for the war effort. Across the English Channel, Lazard London aids the British government in its own financing. With Europe subsumed by war, Lazard’s U.S. banking operations continue to grow in size and stature.
U.K. restrictions on foreign ownership force Lazard to sell its controlling stake in the London branch. The firm effectively becomes three houses: Lazard Frères et Cie (Paris), Lazard Frères & Co. (New York), and Lazard Brothers (London).
With France in a postwar debt spiral, short-sellers drive the franc’s value to collapse. Lazard orchestrates a counter-offensive to beat the speculators by selling massive amounts of the world’s major currencies while buying the franc. The 12-day “battle of the franc” ends with the speculators routed and the franc stabilized.
Lazard New York ceases commercial banking activities after enactment of the Glass-Steagall Act and commits to financial advisory services.
Lazard Investors Ltd begins asset management operations in London.
Lazard Asset Management is formed.
Lazard Senior Partner Felix Rohatyn is approached by the Governor of New York to help save New York City from imminent bankruptcy, as head of the newly formed Municipal Assistance Corporation (MAC). Against all odds, Felix oversees successful negotiations to rescue the city. He remains MAC Chairman for 20 years.
A new entity, Lazard Partners, is formed to control the three Houses of Lazard.
Lazard Frères Gestion established in Paris, paving the way for ambitious growth in asset management and private banking in France.
Evolving with Clients
In 2000, after more than 150 years of separate management, the Houses of Lazard formally united into a single entity to best serve our clients.
In 2005, under the leadership of Bruce Wasserstein, Lazard became a public company. Since November 2009, Kenneth M. Jacobs has led the firm.
Lazard's history is engrained in its culture. To this day, Lazard operates as a local firm in local markets, but serves clients with multinational resources and global perspective.
The Houses of Lazard unite to form Lazard LLC.
After 157 years as a private partnership, Lazard becomes a public firm, listing on the New York Stock Exchange under the ticker LAZ.
Still expanding its global network of relationships after 175 years, Lazard today has offices in 43 cities across 26 countries.