May 26, 2023
Lazard Names Orszag as CEO as It Faces Dealmaking Drought, Share Slump
(Bloomberg) -- Lazard Ltd. named Peter Orszag to succeed Chief Executive Officer Ken Jacobs as the advisory firm grapples with an industrywide dealmaking slump that’s expected to last at least through the end of this year.
Orszag, who currently leads Lazard’s advisory business, will take the top job on Oct. 1, the company said in a statement Friday. The moves confirmed reports last week that Jacobs was planning to step down and become executive chairman after almost 14 years as CEO.
The dealmaking drought has weighed on the firm’s profits and shares. Lazard posted a surprise loss for the first quarter and in April announced plans to reduce its workforce by 10% this year, predicting the slowdown in the mergers-and-acquisitions advisory business will last through 2023.
Part of the rationale for job cuts has been to clear the way to add more top dealmakers, Orszag said in a telephone interview.
“With the building blocks now in place for yet more ambition in the advisory business, we’re poised to bring on additional senior talent,” he said.
Orszag, 54, joined Lazard in 2016 from Citigroup Inc. after stints in government. He was at the Office of Management and Budget from 2009 to 2010 and director of the Congressional Budget Office from 2007 to 2008, and is a former Bloomberg Opinion columnist.
“We will be removing a layer of management by eliminating the CEO of financial advisory position and reassigning the duties of that position to others across the firm,” Orszag said in the memo. “I know many of you will have questions, including about other key leadership positions at the firm. We will announce a new management structure before the official transition date.”
The investment bank’s shares have fallen 19% this year, after a plunge of about 21% in 2022. While many larger banks have leaned on lending businesses to weather the slump in deals, advisory firms have suffered. Lazard, Moelis & Co., and Perella Weinberg Partners have all dropped more than 35% over the past 18 months.
Jacobs, 64, took Lazard’s top job in late 2009 after the death of famed dealmaker Bruce Wasserstein, and became one of Wall Street’s longest tenured leaders. While annual revenue has nearly doubled under Jacobs’s watch, the firm’s shares have lagged behind many peers and its market value is now lower than it was when he took over.
Orszag said in the memo that his plan for expanding the asset-management business includes “inorganic activity,” industry jargon that typically signals acquisitions. There are no plans to spin off or separate the investing unit, he said in the interview.
“Like any new leader, it seems appropriate to take a fresh look,” Orszag said in the interview. “That doesn’t necessarily mean there will be dramatic changes, but it does mean there will be a fresh look.”
(Updates with Orszag’s comments starting in the fourth paragraph.)
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