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Bruce Jay Wasserstein (December 25, 1947 – October 14, 2009)[1] was an American investment banker, businessman, and writer. He was a graduate of the McBurney School,[2]University of Michigan, Harvard Business School, and Harvard Law School, and spent a year at the University of Cambridge. He was prominent in the mergers and acquisitions industry, credited with working on 1,000 transactions with a total value of approximately $250 billion.[3]

Early life

Wasserstein was born and raised in Midwood, Brooklyn, New York, one of five children of Lola (née Schleifer) and Morris Wasserstein.[4] His father, a Jewish immigrant from pre-World War II Poland, emigrated to New York City and started a ribbon company.[5] His maternal grandfather was Simon Schleifer, a Jewish teacher in the yeshiva in Wloclawek, Poland who later emigrated to Paterson, New Jersey and became a Hebrew school principal.[6]


Starting his career as a Cravath, Swaine & Moore attorney, Wasserstein moved to First Boston Corp. in 1977 and eventually rose to co-head of their then-dominant merger and acquisition practice.[7] In 1988, with colleague Joseph Perella, he left First Boston to form investment bank boutique Wasserstein Perella & Co.,[8] which he sold in 2000, at the top of the late 1990s bull market, to Germany's Dresdner Bank for around $1.4 billion in stock.[9] In 2002, he left the unit Dresdner Kleinwort Wasserstein (formed by merging Dresdner's United Kingdom unit Kleinwort Benson with Wasserstein Perella) to become head of Lazard.[10] In 2005, he led the initial public offering of Lazard and became the public firm's first Chairman and CEO.[11]

Wasserstein controlled Wasserstein & Co., a private equity firm with investments in a number of industries, particularly media. In 2004, he added New York Magazine to his media empire. In July 2007, he sold American Lawyer Media to Incisive Media for about $630 million in cash.[12] He was credited with the term "Pac-Man defense", which is used by targeted companies during a hostile takeover attempt.


In 2007 Wasserstein made a $25 million donation[13] to Harvard Law School, for the creation of a large academic wing of the school's Northwest Corner complex, which was named Wasserstein Hall.

Net worth

According to Forbes, as of September 17, 2008, Wasserstein's net worth was estimated to be $2.3 billion.[14]

He owned an apartment at 927 Fifth Avenue in New York City, an estate in Santa Barbara in California, an Atlantic oceanfront estate in East Hampton (Long Island), an apartment at 38 Belgrave Square in London and another apartment in Paris.[15]

Personal life

Wasserstein had been married four times and had six biological children:[16]

  • Laura Lynelle Killin (married 1968, divorced 1974).[16]
  • Christine Parrott (divorced 1992). They had three children: Ben, Pam and Scoop.[16] Christine is a psychoanalyst and has since remarried to American journalist and newspaper publisher Dan Rattiner.[17]
  • Claude Becker (married 1996, divorced 2008). They had two sons: Jack and Dash.[16] Prior to her marriage to Wasserstein, Claude was an Emmy Award-winning CBS news producer. After Bruce's death Claude took in Lucy, Wendy's daughter.[18]
  • Angela Chao, (married 2009, up until Wasserstein's death).[16]

Wasserstein had a sixth child, Sky Wendy Esme Wasserstein, with Erin McCarthy[19] after separating from Becker;[20][21] they did not marry. McCarthy, a Columbia MBA graduate, was formerly a Director of Development at Columbia University's Graduate School of Journalism and is a 17-year veteran in the field of non-profit fundraising.[21] Sky was born at a New York hospital in 2008. Wasserstein gave Sky her middle name, Wendy, in memory of his sister who had died in 2006.[21] He also named Sky an equal beneficiary in trusts he had established for all his children that held his legacy assets, including several real estate properties and businesses, such as New York Magazine.[22] Wasserstein and McCarthy shared joint custody of their daughter.[21] Upon Wasserstein's death, trustees for the various family trusts reportedly barred only Sky from benefiting from the jointly owned trust assets while allowing her five half-siblings and co-beneficiaries exclusive and unrestricted access to all trust properties, and in 2011, they filed an accounting in a New York Surrogate Court.

Vanity Fair magazine, which had posted a description of this dispute over the Wasserstein estate, was forced to print a retraction, which stated: "CORRECTION: An article posted on on June 7, 2016, regarding the estate of Bruce Wasserstein and his relationship with Erin McCarthy, erroneously suggested that members of the Wasserstein family have taken the position that his daughter Sky is entitled to less than 1/6 of his estate’s value, or that she should be cut out of the estate entirely. In fact, Mr. Wasserstein’s children and their representatives have supported the division of the estate into portions of equal value for each child, including Sky. We regret the error and have elected to remove the story from our website."[23]

Bruce Wasserstein was predeceased by two of his siblings: businesswoman Sandra Wasserstein Meyer and Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright Wendy Wasserstein, whose daughter, Lucy Jane, he was raising at the time of his death. His only brother, Abner, died in 2011; and his fourth sibling, Georgette Levis, died in 2014.[24]

His political position was liberal; and he was involved with media since high school and college, when he was an editor on his high school newspaper, The McBurneian [4], (McBurney School, New York), and later at the University of Michigan Michigan Daily, then served an internship at Forbes magazine. Inspired by Ralph Nader, he was one of "Nader's Raiders" for a brief length of time. Rahm Emanuel and Vernon Jordan were employed by Wasserstein for a few years.[25] Wasserstein also served as trustee for the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism from 2001 until his death.


On October 11, 2009, Wasserstein was admitted to hospital with an irregular heartbeat. It was originally reported that his condition was serious, but that he was stable and recovering.[26] On October 14, 2009, Wasserstein was pronounced dead. He was 61 years old.


See also


  1. ^ Bio at International Who's Who. Accessed September 3, 2006.
  2. ^ Westport Now site
  3. ^ David Brewerton (October 22, 2009). "Bruce Wasserstein obituary". The Guardian. 
  4. ^ Cole, Brett (2008). M&A Titans: The Pioneers Who Shaped Wall Street's Mergers and Acquisitions Industry. Wiley. ISBN 9780470126899. 
  5. ^ Business Week bio of Bruce Wasserstein Archived October 17, 2009, at the Wayback Machine.
  6. ^ Claims that Schleifer was a prominent playwright are most likely apocryphal, as this profession was only added to his résumé after Wendy Wasserstein, Bruce's sister, won the Pulitzer Prize for Drama in 1989, according to Salamon, Julie (2011). Wendy and the Lost Boys. New York: Penguin Press ISBN 978-1-59420-298-8
  7. ^ Arenson, Karen W. (April 21, 1981). "First Boston's Merger Makers". New York Times. 
  8. ^ "7 to Leave First Boston To Form Firm". New York Times. April 16, 1988. 
  9. ^ "Dresdner buys Wasserstein in $1.4 billion deal", September 18, 2000
  10. ^ Andrew Ross Sorkin and Suzanne Kapner (November 16, 2001). "A High-Powered Deal Maker Is Named to Lead Lazard". The New York Times. 
  11. ^ Moyer, Liz: [1] Forbes, May 5, 2005, "Lazard's Broken"
  12. ^ Haycock, Gavin: [2] Reuters, July 5, 2007, "Incisive Media to buy Wasserstein's ALM for $630 million"
  13. ^ Coming to Harvard Law School: Wasserstein Hall
  14. ^
  15. ^
  16. ^ a b c d e New York Daily News: "Bruce Wasserstein, Lazard CEO and New York owner, dies at 61" By Helen Kennedy October 14, 2009
  17. ^ New York Times: "Christine Wasserstein and Daniel Rattiner August 3, 2008
  18. ^ Vogue: "Claude Wasserstein's Rooftop Playhouse" by Plum Sykes
  19. ^ Daily Mail: "Battle of the billionaire's Hamptons mansion" by Louise Boyle July 17, 2013
  20. ^ The Daily Beast: "Life After Wasserstein by Ralph Gardner, Jr. December 14, 2009
  21. ^ a b c d Staff (February 20, 2009). "A Baby Between Marriages". New York Post. 
  22. ^ "Wasserstein's Will Names Family, Harvard, Cambridge (Correct)". Bloomberg L.P. Bloomberg News. 22 October 2009. Archived from the original on 14 July 2014. Retrieved 13 April 2016. 
  23. ^ Cohan, William D. "Inside the Wasserstein Feud". Retrieved 2016-08-15. 
  24. ^ "Georgette Levis Obituary". February 6, 2014. 
  25. ^ Teitelman, Robert: [3] Time magazine, November 2, 2009, "Bruce Wasserstein"
  26. ^ Wall Street Journal report on Wasserstein's hospitalization